Useful tips before visiting Japan

As you can imagine, we at Lekker Boutique Travel are crazy about travelling. We went on a dream trip to Japan in April. Our itinerary included sake, sushi, gardens, temples, modern architecture, ceramics, onsen (hot springs), hiking a Buddhist pilgrimage route, fesitvals and last but not least, cherry blossoms.

These are the insights and tips from one of our team. If you’d like to discuss arranging your dream trip to Japan then please get in touch!

Why Japan

I travel in order to experience something different from what I am used to and I have wanted to visit Japan for a very long time. My recent three week trip rates as one of my favourite destinations. If I had to describe Japan in a few words I would describe it as refined, elegant & mysterious.

Kyoto Fushimi Inari

There is a lot to do in Japan and our itinerary was carefully planned and ambitious. There was one day where we walked 20km (and that was in Kyoto, not even on the part of the trip where we went hiking).

Trains

Travelling around Japan is so easy given the incredible and efficient train system. It is easy to base yourself in one or two cities and do day trips to different places. The Japan rail pass is well worth purchasing and allows you unlimited travel on the bullet train network (with some minor exclusions). Japanese train stations are incredibly busy but equally organised. If your train is meant to arrive at 12.19, it will arrive at 12.19. Your ticket will tell you the car and seat number and when arriving at the platform you will see where the door of that car will stop along the platform and people form neat rows to enter the train.  The train stops, people wait for those that disembark and then everyone boards in an orderly fashion and the train departs within minutes. Don’t be late, the train only stops for a few minutes.

Food

It’s so much more than sushi. Japanese food was mysterious, interesting and sometimes challenging. Mysterious because you often have no idea if the building you are passing is even a restaurant…. and if it is, what kind it is, or how expensive it is. But once you have figured that out, it is also mysterious because you often do  not know exactly what you are eating. As a fish eating vegetarian there were some challenges but there was so much amazing food, exquisitely presented that I really enjoyed most of the meals.

 

Sushi – We ate delicious sushi and tried fish we have never heard of.

Soba – Soba noodles were something I had not had much of before the trip but became a favourite. We ate Soba served in a broth and cold soba (yes, cold noodles) served with a dipping sauce. Delicious.

Tempura – I generally don’t like fried food but the tempura in Japan was very, well, Japanese, subtle, light and delicious. We even ate tempura leaves.

Okonomiyaki. This is a dish which has some ‘pancake’, lots of cabbage, a fried egg, noodles and a sauce. Hard to describe because I have never eaten anything like it before. Delicious, and a speciality of Hiroshima.

Sake. Japanese rice wine. There are so many types and it can be served hot or cold.  Hot sake at the end of a long day of sight seeing in the cold became a bit of a ritual of our trip.

Tea. A country after my own heart, where tea is appropriate at every moment. One of my favourite things was that at conveyor belt sushi restaurants there are instant boiling water spouts on the counter so you can make your own tea. We drank a lot of Matcha which is powered green tea that is whisked. Not my favourite, but I did love the various matcha flavoured things, especially matcha ice cream. My favourite tea was roasted stem tea. I had never tried that before and is one of my new favourites. Japanese desserts are mostly made from bean paste and served with matcha. The one Japanese dessert I did love was Taiyaki – a fish shaped pancake filled with custard.

Cherry Blossoms

Spring in Japan is spectacular. It is hard to plan a trip around cherry blossom season which is short and varies from year to year but we were incredibly lucky to arrive in Tokyo the weekend the city hit full bloom. There are so many different cherry blossom viewing spots, each one more breath taking than the next.  There is a certain buzz in the air during the cherry blossom season and everyone is out and about enjoying the change of season.

   Nikko Japan

Toilets

I have to mention the Japanese toilets. They make normal toilets look like they come out of the Stone Age. Japanese toilets can wash you, in various ways, at various pressures, with various temperatures. The seat is always warm. It can play flushing sounds for you to give you privacy in public places. They can deodorise, flush automatically…. I could go on and on. The other incredible thing about Japan is the cleanliness. I have never been to a cleaner country. Public toilets in the busiest train stations in the world were absolutely spotless.

Japanese Toliets

Design

Design & beauty permeates every aspect of Japan. Everything seems considered from an aesthetic perspective. One example of this was the manholes with a beautiful flower motif. This includes the architecture. The ancient temples and shrines are magnificent and are often set in beautiful landscapes. Japanese gardens are exquisite. Walking in Tokyo is like taking a tour through an architecture magazine where every famous modern architect has built something. The sense of aesthetic permeates everything from the way food is presented to the packaging. It is worth going into one of the many department stores and walking through the food section. It’s a feast for the eyes.

Sake Japan  Kanazawa Castle Japan

Festivals

Japan has many festivals and we went to Takayama for their spring festival where special festival floats are paraded through the streets during the day and the night. It was a really interesting experience. Some of the floats have special marionettes and there is a marionette performance that is watched by hundreds of people. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Takayama Spring Festival Japan Takayama Spring Festival

Accommodation

We stayed in both western style and Japanese style accommodation (ryokan). Both styles of accommodation were excellent in their quality but I did prefer the Ryokan for a number of reasons. Firstly, they have a far more homely feel and the staff tended to be more attentive. I loved the experience of sleeping on a futon and having tea served in the room. Most ryokan included and multiple course local dinner which was always an interesting experience. Many of the Ryokan had their own onsen. I was very sceptical of onsen before I got to Japan (i don’t like public swimming pools, so bathing, naked, with strangers did not appeal). But I quickly got over that and loved the experience and looked forward to every onsen experience. Spring is still cold and a soak in a hot onsen is a wonderful way to warm up before bed.

Ryokan Japan

Hiking

We ventured out of the big cities and decided to hike part of the Kumano Kodo – the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route in the Kii peninsula. Hiking through the cedar and cypress forests and tiny villages was tranquil, beautiful and a wonderful contrast to the big bustling cities. We visited beautiful shrines and stayed in lovely small ryokan and got to see a very different side of Japan to that of the mega city.

Find out more

If you’d like more information about visiting Japan or you’d like us to arrange a tailor-made trip to Japan personally designed for you, please get in touch info@lekkerboutiquetravel.com

You can also see all the photos from our trip on Instagram and Facebook page.

Travel to South Africa – Customer Review

Another happy Lekker customer

We’ve just received the following photos from Tammy and family from their once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa.

Tammy had the following to say

I wanted to thank you for such a wonderfully planned trip.  We had so much fun and South Africa is just beautiful! We had a great trip making unbelievable memories!  You did a great job and we thank you very much for all the work that went into planning this trip. 

South African Safari      South African Safari

If you’d like to explore South Africa, please get in touch we’d love to arrange your dream African safari!

The Institute of Directors’ interview with Julia of Lekker Boutique Travel

Lekker’s Julia Fintz discusses Lekker Boutique Travel and the challenges of building a business with Alex and Jamie at The Institute of Directors in London.

The initial part of the video pays tribute to the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack. Alex and Jamie then discuss business and economic news from this week, including the latest on the UK’s GDP and net migration figures. Jamie then mentions the upcoming elections and the various party manifestos and latest poll figures for the election.

From 5:45 onwards, Alex introduces Julia from Lekker Boutique Travel. Julia provides an overview of the services that Lekker provides and touches on some of the key challenges in building a business.

 

Lekker Boutique arranges tailor-made trips personally designed for each customer. Lekker arranges everything from flights, boutique hotels and transfers, to private tours, drivers, guides and activities, to event tickets and restaurant bookings. Lekker specialises in long-haul destinations where a more personal service is important. The company has a particular expertise in travel to Africa. The Lekker team has intimate knowledge of all the destinations on offer, and Lekker makes use of an extensive network of trusted partners that provide 24/7 support to customers while they’re away.

Looking to arrange a bespoke trip?

To speak to one of Lekker’s travel consultants please email info@lekkerboutiquetravel.com or call +44 (0)20 3290 3321 or +1 646-233-2129.

Our top tips for your trip to Italy

Your Italian Summer Holiday

Spring is in the air and people are looking ahead to their spring and summer holidays. This month we’re featuring Italy, one of Europe’s most beautiful and diverse countries, and one of my personal favourites!

We’d love to show you Italy’s artisanal excellence first hand. Italy is home to over 60% of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, beautiful scenery and mouth-watering gastronomy. It easy to understand why the country is loved by so many people. Italy has endless travel possibilities all year round. Whether you’re looking for an exclusive villa for a family holiday, entertaining clients on a food and wine tour or planning a special celebration with family and friends, we can arrange an extraordinary Italian experience to stimulate your senses and leave you refreshed and relaxed.

We’ve included details of some of our favourite experiences in Italy to whet your appetite. Please contact us to discuss your next trip, we’re always happy to hear from you!

FOOD AND WINE IN PUGLIA

italian food and red wine glass with corkscrew

Explore the fascinating region of Puglia. With over 800km of sandy beaches and millions of fruit trees, this beautiful area of Italy will captivate you with its impressive baroque heritage, turquoise sea and gastronomic delights. Puglia is paradise for food and wine lovers, from the rich and robust red wines, mouth-watering cheese (burrata is my favourite!), fresh seafood to fantastic extra virgin olive oil. Stay in a private villa or a family friendly Masseria (farm house) and experience Apulian hospitality at its best.

VINTAGE TUSCANY

Beautiful couple trip in the country with a vintage car

Imagine yourself in a vintage Italian convertible driving through the charming Tuscan countryside with the wind in your hair. Spend your days in Medieval villages sampling local delicacies such as truffles and cheese and dining in sublime trattorias. Tuscany is the perfect destination for a romantic road trip!

DOLOMITES ADVENTURE

IN CIMA AL MONDO Dolomites

For adrenaline junkies, the Dolomites represent the ultimate thrill. The Dolomites are home to some of the world’s most beautiful mountains where you can enjoy activities such as heli skiing, downhill biking, rafting, rock climbing and fishing. For those looking for a more relaxing trip, hunt for wild mushrooms and enjoy a farm-fresh meal in a local malga (alpine home) to experience true “Italian mountain food”.

ART AND CULTURE IN SICILY

Small fishing village with boats at Sicily, Castellammare, Italy

No trip to Italy is complete without visiting Sicily. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and has many different cultural influences. This makes it the perfect destination for lovers of art and architecture. From the Baroque villages and towns of Siracusa and Noto to some of the most impressive Greek temples in Agrigento, embark on a journey back in time to smell and taste the powerful heritage of this island.

AMALFI COAST VILLA

The scenic Amalfi coastline Positano

We have access to a fantastic selection of glamorous villas in the Amalfi Coast and Capri. Enjoy the beauty and privacy of these villas and spend quality time with your loved ones. We can arrange great in-house experiences such as cooking and yoga classes, or painting and Italian lessons. It’s truly the relaxing break you’ve been dreaming of!

ITALIAN LAKES

Lake Maggiore at Luino, facing Switzerland__Lake Maggiore_Italy

Verona is considered the city of lovers, but few know that the nearby lake offers fantastic activities for nature and sports lovers. Whether you’re looking for water sports or biking and hiking, Lake Garda has it all. On those quieter days you can explore the quaint towns around the Italian Lakes, and who knows, when exploring the Lake Como region you may just bump into the area’s most famous resident, George Clooney! The Italian Lake District’s pretty lakeside towns, breath-taking views and charming waterfront restaurants make it the perfect location for a road trip.

Happy Travels

Let us know what inspires you and what you love to do and we’ll put together a unique tailor-made trip personally designed for you. If you’d like to find out more about Italy or any of our other destinations please get in touch.

Top 7 Activities to keep you busy in Mozambique

Our activity recommendations for Mozambique

Blue Footprints Eco Lodge Blue Footprints Eco Lodge

We often get asked, other than lie on the beach, what else is there to do in Mozambique? The answer is, there is an abundance of activities to keep you busy if lying in the sun is something you can’t do for more than a day or two.

These are some of our favourite activities along the Mozambique coast:

Scuba diving

There are great dive centres and dive sites along the Mozambican coast. The area is famous for whale sharks and manta rays so if you’ve always wanted to see these rare ocean giants, then this is the dive destination for you!

manta ray underwater-1394924

Ocean Safari

For the slightly less adventurous, join an Ocean Safari and see whale sharks, whales, dolphins and other sea life from the comfort of a boat. If the conditions permit, you may also be able to snorkel and get up close and personal with the ocean life on offer.

 Quad biking

As with all sandy locations, there are plenty of quad biking opportunities in Mozambique. From endless stretches of quiet beach and sand tunes, to adventurous quad biking trips through local villages, there’s something for everyone.

Horse riding

Go horse riding in the morning or early evening along deserted stretches of beautiful beach and over endless sand dunes. Horse riding doesn’t come more rustic than this!

Horse riding on the beach

Dhow Trips

Enjoy a relaxing sailing trip aboard a traditional sailing boat in one of Mozambique’s many estuaries. Swim or snorkel, or just sit back and relax while the sun sets in the distance.

Deep Sea Fishing

Mozambique has many exception deep sea fishing locations, so you’re guaranteed to find a charter that’s right for you. They’ll include the rods and bait so it’s then up to you to catch something good for dinner!

Surfing

For experienced surfers, Mozambique has endless coastline and wonderful, uncrowded waves. For beginners, Mozambique is a wonderful place to learn to surf and many of the beaches have surf schools.

mozambique-1624874-1600x2400

These are just a few of the activities on offer along Mozambique’s beautiful coastline. Contact us to find out more or to arrange your tailor-made trip to Mozambique.

 

 

 

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