Today, a friend and I went to the city for some shopping, but we needed some food to recharge. So instead of going to the oh-so-busy KFC, we went to the Burgerfabriek. The serve some very good burgers here. You can either get one from the menu, or make one yourself!
I went for the chicken-burger with avocado, mozzarella and humus. And my friend got the Blonde D’Aquitaine, with fried onions, humus and extra sauce.
They serve next to the burgers, also salad, hot dogs, other side dishes, starters and desserts. Perfect for lunch or dinner! The burgers are very juicy and tasty, it was quite the hassle to eat it though.
All in all quite the place to eat, though I must admit that the waiters weren’t as friendly as I would have liked, but the service overall was pretty okay. You can check their full menu here.
Have you been here before? Let me know what you thought!
Looking for a nice place to get a drink and eat some lunch after you are done shopping in Maastricht? Then check out De Brandweer Kantine! They serve many dishes and drinks and offer a great place for some relaxation (or get some work done).
Although I don’t go to Amsterdam that often, there is always one good reason to go: books! Maastricht has a beautiful book store in the Dominican church, but the amount of English books they have is pretty small. Therefore Waterstones or the American Book Center in Amsterdam are my go-to places for some great books! This is what I came home with on my last trip, come take a look!
I literally just finished this one, and I can’t wait to share this with you guys! Here is my review about Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil. There might be some spoilers, so read at your own risk!
We follow Sam, a sarcastic, horror-movie buff who gets bullied by the popular kids, trying to survive high school (all very relatable). He has a group of friends: chubby Adrian who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, gay Mike who doesn’t open his mouth at all, and Allison the shy anime weeb who often chews on her hair. They all hide during their breaks in the IT room (also, very relatable).
One normal day, everything changes when a new girl, Camilla, joins their class. She is popular, but not like the typical girls, she is pretty and nerdy, and gets along with everyone. She tries to become friends with Sam and his friend group as they seem to share the same interests. After hours of WoW and chatting, they are starting to get to know each other and their families. Camilla becomes part of the friend group and helps Sam with the troubles he is struggling with.
The Post-it says “AltheaZorg.”
I stare at the Post-it.
Did she just ask me to play Warcraft? Is she a noob that I’m going to have to walk through a simple quest? Or have Justin and the Vessels of Wank put her up to something? Will there be a cast of the school’s biggest arsehat hanging out over a computer this evening plotting some brainless, but no doubt still humiliating, practical joke?
I have no idea. But there is only one solution.
I am never playing Warcraft again.
Every character has its own quirks, characteristics, and troubles. They all grow as the story progresses. There is this thing about Mike, where he suddenly stops with his biggest passion ever: karate. He won’t tell anyone what is going on, and even his best and oldest friend Sam, can’t seem to get it out of him. Sam, trying to figure out his own problems, is pretty worried about his friend. A thing I really liked, is that the story about Mike doesn’t feel overly focus on the whole gay thing. He is just like any other normal person with that has their own inner demons to fight.
The only thing that did kind of bother me was the character of Camilla. She pretty much sounds like a Mary Sue: she is nice, very pretty, everyone likes her, has a sexy British accent, gets the whole school back together, is a daughter of a former model and a famous writer AND she likes all the nerd stuff. She magically cures Sam’s depression, and gets this whole class to stop bullying them, eventually sort of becoming friends?
There was this part where she mentioned that, because they had to travel so much, she had many other schools where she figures out how most people worked. This way she could get easily merge in with the new class. I was really intrigued about getting to know more about those past experiences of hers… but we never did. I tried to get over the whole Mary Sue act as quick as possible so I could enjoy the rest of the book.
A very light and happy fluffy book filled with great nerd puns and humour.
The sarcastic humour of Sam’s internal monologue is absolutely hilarious. There were so many parts that were just so relatable and made me laugh. Sam’s favourite movie: the original Halloween. (HELL YES, great choice!)
I suggest this book to any fellow nerds out there who are looking for a light read, filled with comedy and a bit of romance. There are MANY great movie references which is amazing! I am looking forward reading more if Melissa Keil. I am especially excited for The Amazing Adventures of Cinnamon Girl.
If any of you have suggestions some great reads I need to know about, let me know in the comments! And if you read Life in Outer Space, let me know what you think about it!
When going to Japan for the first time, there are of course a few things on your list that you will want to see, the Skytree, Akihabara, and number one on people’s bucket-lists: Mt. Fuji! But since Mt. Fuji is only visible on clear days, you might get disappointed when taking a bus tour when you aren’t able to see much of the snow-topped volcano. So what to do then? I’d say, take a weekend trip to Lake Kawaguchi! Keep reading for my itinerary for Lake Kawaguchi.
Lake Kawaguchi is one of the big lakes located around Fuji in Yamanashi, West of Tokyo. You can get there quite easily by taking the bus or the train from Tokyo. We took the Highway Bus, as it was cheaper and faster than going by train, though it was quite the hassle to find out where the bus was parked.
To check out time tables for the train you can use HyperDia. (For JR Pass users: Not all train mentioned in here are covered by the pass. Shinkansen such as the Nozomi and Mizuho are excluded from the JR Pass.)
My highway Bus experience
Since Shinjuku is the biggest, busiest and most confusing station in Japan, finding the bus was not an easy task. After walking back and forth, asking people where we could find the bus, we found this amazing guy who knew just where we needed to go. And even though he was in a hurry, he ended up walking all the way with us. It was parked near a Yodobashi Camera and took us approximately 15 minutes to reach. They also leave according to schedule, so if you miss it you will have to buy a new ticket. The inside of the bus was really comfortable, with a lot of space for your legs. The seats are reserved so you will always have your own seat and suitcases are tucked away underneath the bus, so no worries about those.
Things to do
As it is not a big city like Tokyo or Osaka, you shouldn’t go here for the entertainment business, but instead you take your time and enjoy the AMAZING VIEW over the lake, with Mt. Fuji in the background. There is something relaxing in the air, which is perfect for a getaway from the big city. There are still many things to do however, for example:
Go hiking – There is a mountain to climb with lots of forestry for some hiking. The scenery there is beautiful and serene.
Ride the Kachi Kachi Rope-way – If hiking up a mountain trail isn’t your idea of fun, you can always take the rope-way. At the top there are a few shops and resting places. It is a lot of fun to hike down the mountain trail and since it is not as tiring you can really enjoy the scenery.
Visit the Huji Omuro Sengen Shrine – It is one of the oldest shrines in Kawaguchi and is a beautiful sight.
Take a (romantic) boat ride – There are many companies around located around the lake where you can hire a paddle boat to enjoy the lake itself (the best time is during Summer).
Visit the Kawaguchi Sengen Shrine – It is a small shrine, but the tranquility of its grounds and the sounds of nature are truly magical.
Kawaguchiko Museum of Art – It’s not too strange that Kawaguchi has been inspiration of many artists when painting Mt. Fuji, so why not enjoy some art during your stay.
Take a picture of Kawaguchi station – When you go by bus or train, you will most likely arrive at the train station, which looks beautiful. So don’t forget to take a picture!
Kawaguchiko Natural Living Center – It is a cultural center with a great view over Kawaguchiko city and Mt. Fuji. During the right seasons, you can walk through fields with blueberries and lavender.
Kawaguchiko Herb Hall – It is located near the Kawaguchiko Oishi Park. In the hall you can see, smell and taste many herbs that are grown in the area. Their lavender ice cream is rather famous!
Kawaguchiko Oishi Park – Take a stroll through the park and enjoy the view of the beautiful flowers, lake and Mt. Fuji.
On the first day we walked around the Lake a bit. Since we arrived on Friday evening there wasn’t a lot of time left after the bus drive. We checked in, took a look around the hotel, took a stroll along the lake and went to check out the other side of the bridge: Kawaguchiko city. There were many restaurants here, but we ended up having dinner at Gusto. After dinner we headed back towards our hotel for a good nights rest. (When you arrive at the station, make sure to snap a picture of it!)
On day two we went the other way, towards the Kachi Kachi Rope-way. We stumbled across a small shrine near a local shop, enjoyed the view over the lake from different angles and then took the rope-way all the way up. On top of Mt. Tenjo there were a few shops, and places to rest and view Mt. Fuji. We had a Mt. Fuji ice cream and ran all the way back down the hill. We decided to check out the part around the train station, where we found this super cute place to eat: 平井売店 Hirai baiten. (The Houtou restaurant is located right next to it, for those who are interested in eating Houtou.) That night I went to the hotel onsen with one of my friends, which was amazing!
Even though I enjoyed this day, I recommend you spending this day taking the Kachi Kachi Rope-way up Mt. Tenjo. And after relaxing for a while you can choose to do some of the following things: visit Oishi Park for some more hiking, the Kawaguchiko Music Forest with music box museum, or the Kawaguchiko Sengen Shrine (from the Music Forest, follow the river away from the lake).
On day three there wasn’t a lot of time left, so we went back towards the Kachi Kachi Rope-way where we entered a small souvenir shop with all kinds of Mt. Fuji related souvenirs. After packing our bags, we took the shuttle bus back to the train station from where we would head towards Matsumoto: our final destination. If you wake up early enough, I suggest visiting the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall with the litle time you have left and have some of that famous lavender ice cream just before you depart.
Where to stay (around Lake Kawaguchi)
For the full experience I suggest you stay at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese Inn). There are many ryokan in the area near the lake. I stayed at Hotel New Century. They have a shuttle-bus service that you can use for free, between the station and the hotel. You can also use this for some sightseeing when it’s not too busy.
There is a onsen on the upper floor that can be used for free as well. When we went in (which was around 12 at night) there was only one woman who just came out, so we had the whole place to ourselves. Read more about the basic etiquette for onsen in this article here.
Hotel Konanso Yamanashi is more expensive, but has a bigger bath and even a karaoke bar. So if you are looking for a very luxurious stay, then I recommend this one.
For those on a budget, there are many hostels in the area. You might not get a view over the lake, but you can always take a stroll to get that perfect view.
Where to eat
There are many great places to eat, you can choose to have dinner at the hotel. Most of these meals consist of kaiseki (small and light traditional Japanese dishes). Some recommendations are:
Near Hotel New Century is a great Yakiniku restaurant called 網焼Hana (Amiya Hana). レストハウス湖波 (Resthouse Konami) is a Noodle restaurant and also located near Hotel New Century.
居酒屋 (Izakaya) High Spirits is a well rated Izakaya, just over the big bridge in town. Izakaya are places where you can order drinks with small dishes and snacks, a great idea for an evening out.
Family restaurants such as Gusto or Bamiyan, can be a nice change of pace when you are looking for something simple. The menu at Gusto has a lot of western style dishes and both have a relaxed and friendly vibe to it.
Houto Fudou Higashikoijiten serves Houto noodles, a popular dish only served near Mt. Fuji Lakes. The dish is like a hotpot with noodles, served in an iron pot.
Don’t forget to try the lavender ice cream at the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall!
The one memory of Flora Banks, a book written by Emily Barr, is about a girl whose memory keeps getting reset, making her forget everything that has happened after her 10th birthday. It’s a thrilling mystery book with a hint of romance and teen troubles. These are my thoughts on this book. (I am trying to spoil as little as possible, but there might still be some small spoilers here and there, so be warned!)
The writing of book is quite unique, and so is the main character. The protagonist, Flora, keeps reminding herself the things that she remembers and writes notes on what she wants to remember. The writer takes the time to show the reader what actually goes on in Flora’s head and often repeats the things she remembers. I can see how some people might find it annoying the way everything keeps getting repeat, but it didn’t bother me at all. I actually think that this is really important, because we really understand what is going on inside her mind and how she gets to certain conclusions.
The story starts with an intriguing prologue, making you want to keep on reading. After that we get to know Flora, in her own way. Flora doesn’t seem to remember anything after her tenth birthday, even though she is now 17 years old. But one day everything changes. After kissing her best friend’s boyfriend (Drake) on the beach, she somehow is able to remember. She is very excited, as this is something that had never happened before. Thinking that Drake is special, and will give her even more memories, she wants to be with him. The problem is that the boy is going to Svalbard, Norway, for his studies and has to leave the next day. Flora keeps everything a secret from her parents, but when her parents to go to Paris with Flora staying home alone, she seizes her chance go and look for the boy that will heal her.
Flora is a quirky and loving girl, having her own way of living and thinking. She has a strong mind and lots of willpower. Sadly her memory can get in the way of her being able to live her life to the fullest. She is a very cute character and definitely captures the hearts of the readers.
Throughout this story we meet many people, we get to see what Flora’s day to day life looks like and we find out many secrets about her life. It is a psychological thriller and a real page turner. Your mind keeps wanting to solve the puzzle, thinking things like: maybe she just has an overly big imagination, or memories might have been distorted. Maybe she is just a stalker or maybe it all really happened the way she remembers. But you don’t know the truth until after you finish the book.
It is a great book that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, as you discover secret after secret about Flora’s life. It is not the typical YA romance novel, but rather a psychological thriller, which for me is perfect. All in all I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of mystery and thriller and cute quirky main-characters.
I give this book a 4/5. Goodreads has listed it as a 3,5/5.
Bad, not recommended – 1 Not really my things – 2 It was fun, but.. – 3 Great read, recommended – 4 LOVE IT – 5
Onsen, or Hot Spring, and bathing houses have their own set of rules as they are public bathing places. If you are going to Japan and are planning on going to a public bathhouse make sure you know the basic rules, as to where to take off your clothes, when and where to wash, and what to do with your towel. Here are some of the basic bathing etiquette when visiting an onsen in Japan.
There are not many tourists who do not enjoy the experience of onsen and bathhouses. Onsen are great for relaxing, so make sure not to talk too loudly. Just pretend you are in a library.
1. Almost everywhere in Japan there are rules about shoes, be it entering someone’s house, or a fitting room. So make sure you take off yours and put on slippers that are offered somewhere near the entrance (don’t take your clothes off just yet!).
2. When you enter a place where you find a lot of baskets placed around, this is usually where you can undress. You put your clothes, accessories and bath towel in the basket and you are ready to enter the bathing area. (To avoid awkward moments make sure you enter the right area: 女 indicates female and 男 indicated male.)
3. You may take a small towel with you to the bathing area to cover your private zones. Make sure not to put the towel into the water when entering the bath. You can place it on top of your head or on the side of the bath.
4. Make sure to wash before entering the water, as the bath is not meant for washing yourself. You can wash yourself at the basins lining the walls. Take place on the stool, facing the wall with faucet, and use the bucket to wash your body with warm water (and soap if you want, but make sure no soap gets into the bath). Don’t forget to put up your hair if you do not want to wash it beforehand.
5. Then enter the bath. If it is too hot try to enter slowly and try to move as little as possible. Just pretend to be in a sauna.
6. After soaking for a while, you can go back to scrub your body some more as your pores are more open at this point. Old dirt also had the chance to soak loose for a bit and is now easier to remove. Also make sure to tidy your space after using it.
7. When it get too hot you can cool of by using the basins on walls (or, if there is one, enter the icy cold bath) just to get into the hot one again. On your last bath, don’t wash off the minerals of the spring water. Just dry yourself (still in the bathing area), put on your bathrobe, enjoy some (strawberry) milk from the vending machine and get ready for bed.
Beware: Make sure to test the bath before entering them fully. In bigger bathhouses there are hot as well as cold, or even electric baths. The electric ones are well marked with pictures, but you won’t feel it as soon as your feet touch the water. The current comes from a rubber mat on the walls in the bath, the closer you get to the mat the stronger the current gets.
Most baths at ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn’s) offer free soap, razor blades and toothbrushes, but if you enter a bathhouse (such as a sento) you may have to bring your own stuff.
I hope to have helped a bit. Happy bathing!
Have you ever been to a Hot Spring in Japan before?