At last it’s time to go, Portugal escape

This past January, just before lockdown restrictions ended in the UK and after almost 3 years of staying put in London, I finally boarded a plane and travelled.

Travel prep, testing and documentation was a mine field, just about enough to put you off from going anywhere. But with all the paperwork done and negative Covid test results confirmed I was Portugal bound taking with me my all new ‘Rena Go’ bag.

Well, I did design it to be a bag on the go, so only right to test drive it properly.

The airport was deserted, only 15 of us boarded the flight (I had to count), hard to describe just how alien it felt.

The flight was a direct flight to Porto, I was warned it rains a lot in Porto and it did exactly that. But I loved it, what a beautiful town, such friendly people and the bakeries… oh my, take me back.

The old port , bridges ,blue and white tile clad buildings and steep cobbled streets make it a fascinating town to visit and discover.

A 3 hour train journey which ended being a 5 hour journey from Porto to Lisbon was not great, if I am honest.  The steep walk from the station up the hill to Alfama was picturesque.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly surprised me , so very quaint for a capital city, living in London you expect capital cities to be big and crowded.

One advantage of travelling during Covid was just how empty and quiet everything was. I understand Alfama is a bustling tourist district, not so when I visited. I appreciated the sunshine, views, colours and silence.

Lisbon is an absolute gem, beautiful, vibrant, interesting, tasty..  and if I’m talking tasty , a meal at Pharmacia is a whole different experience. Especially if you can sit outside on a sunny day. Don’t miss it!

There are plenty of short excursions to be had from Lisbon ( another reason I will be going back).

I managed to visit Cascais, a short train ride from Lisbon along the coast to this old fishing village. Inside the walls of the old city is the Cidadela Art District with it’s galleries and museums. It was too cold to swim in January but the white sandy beaches were beautiful all the same and the old port with it’s outdoor dining hub was buzzing.

Did the Rena Go pass the test drive?? the intention was to create a ‘down sized’ bag for the times… we live out of our phones after all so travelling with a big bag is unnecessary. We do need compartments for our phone, passport, masks, sanitiser, book…  The Rena has just enough space for all these necessities plus a sewn- in key fob and card holder.  With it’s wide, adjustable and detachable webbed cotton strap, I think we did good.

Ooh La La, The Richmond Bag in Paris

Photography: Brian Minkoff

Bag: The Richmond

Is there a more photogenic capital city than Paris? arguably not in my humble opinion.

We sent our iconic Richmond Bag travelling just before Christmas ( and Omicron), so here’s a bag’s eye view of this beautiful city.:

From the newly renovated La Samaritaine Paris Department store

to the Place Vendome

The Louvre

The Eiffel Tower

Le Marais and it’s delicacies

Art Deco meets the new iphone at the Place St Michel

Even the bears over do it sometimes, but how can you not?

 

Despite Covid ,Paris is as beautiful and as tasty. In fact, maybe Covid restrictions and complications have made short, successful getaways even more special.

Happy New Year to all, may 2022 be healthy, happy, tasty and a whole lot easier.

Out catching colours

I’m sure that for many other small business owners like myself , life since the first Covid lockdown in March has been a daily challenge with the unknown. I realise I’ve been so ‘consumed’ with my effort to keep going and to find a strategy to see the business through Lockdown and beyond,that I’ve taken no ‘time out’ to do some of the most fundamental things that have been my core inspiration. Little did I know when I took off the last 2 weekends in October that my luck was in, lockdown is back as of November. I was fortunate to re-charge my batteries on time.

For my first inspirational weekend off , I ventured out of London to the Chiltern Hills for some autumnal inspiration. ‘Catching’ colours as I call it.

I always choose my new season colour palette from nature, match the images to my desired Pantones and start forming my range

Here I am, lost in my thoughts

with my Silver Abstraction Pouch, I mean why not do muddy walks with a shiny silver bag?

The Abstraction pouch, staycations in Brighton

Video & photography: Brian Minkoff

UK Staycations are not ones for guaranteed good weather… anything but. With that in mind they are still time away, they have their own charm and during Covid times at least you are guaranteed to get out of the house and explore.

Our Abstraction Pouch in Silver certainly made the most of its Brighton Staycation. Relaxed at The Grand hotel, braved the stormy weather and enjoyed a cream tea ( or too) and some fish & chips

Here’s to time out, wherever it may be.

Stay safe, stay well, stay positive!

Vive Paris

Location: Paris

Bag: The Richmond midi in Blue

Photography:Brian Minkoff photography

grand-palais

What a difference a day makes….

When shooting our blog post in Paris a couple of weeks back, the fire at Notre Dame could not be imagined.  It would be impossible for us to post this blog without reflecting on this.

Notre Dame is said to be Paris’s most visited and beloved monument, surpassing both the Eifel Tower and the Louvre. Having weathered many a storm since construction on it started in 1163, no one would have thought that 850 years later Notre Dame’s main spire and roof would be ravaged by a massive fire.

The world now watches as France and Parisians start the difficult task of establishing the full extent of the damage and work towards rebuilding its finest monument.

We will take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and relaxed Easter- recharge, spend time with family and friends, eat chocolate 😊  We leave you with photos of an overcast but beautiful Paris.

eiffel

louvre

pyramide

place

model

with-croissant

restaurant

with-pooch

 

TRAVEL: FILM, FISH AND FRITES, St Malo & Dinard

 

Images and details: Brian Minkoff Photography 

Travel Bag: The Camden tote in Mustard

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Travelled with: There and back overnight on Brittany Ferries   from Portsmouth to St Malo .  There’s an excellent buffet ,so a pretty good start

Dinard-3

 

Commuted: There’s a small ferry boat that goes from St Malo to Dinard and back every hour

Stayed at: Castelbrac  St Malo, 5 star luxury in a unique setting

castel

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Ate at: Brasserie du Sillon, right on the St Malo beach, where my starter (slightly not kosher) Plateau de fruits de mer  (oysters, langoustines, king prawns, whelks and winkles) and the Mrs’s  mackerel fillets marinated in Muscadet were fantastic as were the whole grilled  snapper (my favourite fish) and C’s Chateaubriand in a creamy mustard sauce with thin, thin chips. Followed by a pistachio pavlova with strawberry sorbet and crème brulée with Madagascan vanilla

 Le Sept Mers in St Malo overlooking the beach where we indulged in foie gras, crab with grilled avocado and fennel, pork belly with sage, smoked cauliflower and mash, cod baked with sea greens, a chocolate ganache with absinthe and a fruit soup with ginger and yogurt sorbet.

 

castel-2

Stayed at: Le Nouveau Monde, St Malo and highly recommend,

Ate at:  our favourite restaurant, La Gonelle, overlooking the bay where they bring the fish fresh from the tank. We indulged in fresh sardines and then shared a whole turbot baked in beef juices with rosemary potatoes and a bottle of local cider.

St-malo

 

 

Dinard-2

 

Visited:  The Dinard Film Festival,  This  film fest offers access to paying punters and is very friendly.

dinard-film-fest

Bag verdict: The Mrs loved the bag-very soft leather and a lovely colour and lots of room. The attached purse was neat too.

grand-1

A bientot!

castel-1

ESCAPE..THAILAND’S ISLANDS-PART 2, RAILAY

Having gotten over my jet lag and effortlessly adjusted to life in Koh Samui (see Part 1, Koh Samui) I headed on down to the Andaman Coast, destination Railay.

There is 1 airport in Koh Samui, it is privately owned so flights in and out of here are not cheap like other internal Thai flights but they are quite spectacular. The airport resembles a resort with lush landscaped gardens,boutique style shopping and pretty swanky toilets!!  Passengers are ushered to the planes via the runway, in converted golf carts and the views of Koh Samui from the air are breath taking

Flight: Koh Samui to Krabi with Bangkok Air, approx 50 mins flight, £87 with in-flight snack

Krabi airport to Ao Nang by shuttle: 30 mins

Ao Nang to Railay by long boat (there is a hire booth on the beach) approx 15 mins

Railay long boats

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suitcases

Railay is accessibly only by boat and yes, you do have to climb in and out of a ‘long boat’ clutching your suitcase through the sea, but it is so worth it. Laid back, chilled and welcoming I can’t recommend it enough.  In my books it is as close to a slice of paradise as it gets. I would go there again in a heartbeat.

Railay-cove

Stayed at: Railay Bay resort and spa prices start at £150 for a double room

visited: Nang Phra beach, a beach like something out of the Jurassic period, with towering rocks, caves and stalagmites. No dinosaurs , but plenty of monkeys in the surrounding forest. It’s a busy tourist destination and at the weekends the traffic from Ao Nang to this beach is quite overwhelming, so avoid if you’re looking for solitude.

Railay stalagmites

Tham Phra Nang fertility caves, a shrine full of carved wooden phalluses

fertility-cave

fertility cave

walked: through The forest to Tonsai beach, welcome to the chill-out zone!

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Tonsai beach

 

Ate : fresh grilled fish at the local style restaurants between the East and West beaches

Chilled: roof top balconies of the local bars

The-Brewer

watched: the sunrise and the sunset

Railay sunset

indulged: in some early morning canoeing off Railay Beach and the nearby rocks. For those of you into rock climbing , this is the ultimate jungle gym

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rocks

Next: Part 3, Kamala, Phuket

Escape… Thailand’s Islands, Koh Samui

My travel bags: The Brewer Holdall, The Angel bag 

Angel Koh Samui

Travelled with: Thai Airways from Heathrow /£750.00 return ( Mid Feb) , 12hrs to Bangkok/13 hrs return to Heathrow. Perfect service and customer care from start to finish.

Connecting flight Bangkok to Surat Thani with Thai smile £35 single ( mid Feb ), 55 mins. Great service, you even get served drinks and a snack

Bus from Surat Thani to Don Sak port, then boat to Koh Samui approx 2 hrs, spectacular scenery and air conditioned decked cabin. I chose to sit on the deck and watch the views.

temple

Mandara

Stayed at: Bandara resort and spa from £85 per night including breakfast. The breakfast is on the beach restaurant and quite spectacular, not to mention the views

Bo phut

Bophut fishing village is a 5 minute walking and is totally charming with a large selection of chill out cafes on the beach as well as restaurants and a weekly market selling just about everything from fried grasshoppers to suits.

Chaweng

sunset

Optional day trips:  Chaweng, Big Buddha

fruit

 

Eat: fruit- lots of it, Fresh fish- sold by weight, grilled in front of you, Phad Thai- it’s so, so good

coconut

Drink- Coconut Cappuccino, as many fresh coconuts as you can

Relax- enjoy the sunsets

Angel sunset

 

NEXT: Escape Thailand’s Islands, Krabi and Railay

Travel Japan, part 2… Miyajima,Hiroshima, Kamakura & Tokyo

If you’ve made it to Kyoto, a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island should be your next port of call.

For all details relating to Kyoto, flights and internal travel visit the 1st part of this blog ‘Travel Japan… Kyoto in Autumn’

Miyajima is a small Island off the coast of Hiroshima known as the ‘Island of the gods’, home to the Itsukushima Shrine and its iconic Floating Torii Gate.

Miyajima-island-3

 

Make sure you take time out to indulge in some Momiji Manju ,a steamed bun filled with a bean jam filling

food Hiroshima

We headed on down from Hiroshima to Tokyo by train, taking time out to check out Harajuku. Tokyo is a blog all on its own, too much to do, too much to say. But this is how Harajuku makes me feel:

Tokyo Ginza

an opportunity to do some essential gift shopping, with so much cuteness how does one even choose?

kyoto cutness

And of course it is vital to check and see what Muji flagship store have on offer, food things we never get to see in our UK Muji shops

food Muji

Next a day trip to Kamakura  which is full of beautiful shrines and temples. From the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Kamakura Budha

to the local Totoro

Kamakura pokemon

Before  boarding the train to head on back,taking great care to depart without causing oneself serious injury 🙂

warning-sign

TRAVEL JAPAN.. KYOTO IN AUTUMN

Photography and travel: Sawako Muraoka

(Featured image: Kiyomisu-Dera Temple in autumn)

Flights: JAL from Heathrow, around £600 return London-Tokyo/Haneda airport  (Arriving at Haneda Airport is very useful as it’s only a 15 min train ride into Tokyo, it takes a lot longer from Narita. There is also a little shopping village inside the airport – useful for last minute gift buying and your final noodle fix)

Bag: The Rena bag in Moss Green

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Stayed at:

  • Self catering apartment which was fully equipped with a little kitchen and washing machine. Would especially recommend if you’re staying for a few nights as it’s a lot cheaper than most hotels and you have your own kitchen. Most hotel rooms are also very small so apartments can be more comfortable.
  • Highland Shimabara Guest House Approx. £65/night –  but this varies a lot depending on season

Dine out: Traditional meal served at a Kyoto’Ryokan’  (including the prettiest plate of pickles you’ve ever seen )food 3

food 2

food 1

Arashiyama Bamboo Groveso beautiful and the trees are so tall!

kyoto bamboo
“Ojizo San”  is what these little statues are called , you see them a lot round shrines, they are there to protect people.

kyoto statues

Fushimi inari – Shinto shrine with thousands of “tor-ii” gates lining pathways up a mountain. We didn’t make it all the way!

Kyoto shrine

 

 Travelling around Japan – with JR Pass: this is a train pass only available to people who are not resident in Japan. You can use it as often as you like and go anywhere as long as it’s on a JR train and you reserve a seat. (It doesn’t include the fastest Shinkansen called Nozomi fyi. The second fastest is fast enough though!) It costs from around £180/week. Definitely recommend getting this if you’re going to multiple places.

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Travel Japan.. part 2 to follow!