Green city escape: Kyoto

 

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Cherry blossoms decorate a traditional home in Kyoto, Japan.

Few cities in Asia are as charming as Kyoto in Japan. The ancient Japanese capital offers much to green seekers from a bamboo forest to nature hikes and outdoor floating cafes and hot springs. All of this is cloaked in a historic city full of temples and shrines. If you visit Japan and seek a quiet refuge from Osaka, this is the place to be. You can choose to stay in any of the many areas of the city and base your itinerary on the local attractions. And it’s super safe so feel free to explore the city at night with many business owners and locals that speak English.

Eat 

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Soybean doughnuts for sale.

Kyoto is home to Buddhist monks, and as such, many restaurants and cafes are known for its vegetarian fare (kyo yasai), with tofu being the rule, rather than the exception. Enjoy a variety of tofu and veggie dishes including miso soup, vegetable tempura, yuba (skin of heated soy milk) and a brown sea veggie called hijiki.

Explore

Kyoto is also home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. In fact, there are more than 2,000 within the city. Start your journey at Teramachi Street, home to Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and numerous other shrines and temples, then move to areas like Gion, where you can also explore a bit of Geisha history.

After exploring the many temples and shrines, take a stroll through the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Here, you can walk through towering bamboo stalks winding past small shrines and temples, leading uphill to Okochi-Sanso Villa.

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Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.

Sleep

Sleep in a traditional Japanese inn called a Ryokan, where you can choose between Japanese and Western rooms and meals, with access to public baths (onsen). You can get a feel for the more traditional side of Kyoto and walk around in a yukata, or cotton kimono (www.ryokan.or.jp).  For a less traditional headrest, try sleeping in a capsule. One of the few capsule hotels that accommodate both men and women, Nine Hours Hotel (www.ninehours.co.jp) offers an alternative to a traditional hotel room and is located on the main drag in Kyoto. More like an upgraded hostel, it includes private showers, a break room and a computer lounge area. Although an attractive option for backpackers, it also offers a less expensive option for an overnight stay in the city especially for those interested in this unique experience.

Kyoto is a convenient stop on both the JR Line and Hankyu line that both run through central Osaka.

Nadler Hotels, London: understated luxury

The entranceway to Nadler Kensington Hotel, in the historic area of Kensington.
The entranceway to Nadler Kensington Hotel in the historic area of Kensington.

When traveling to a new city, where you lay your head can make or break your experience. A clean, comfy hotel can offer a much needed respite after a long flight or be the source of a bad review on TripAdvisor. So, after spending seven hours flying across the Atlantic, I was hoping my hotel choice in London would be a good beginning to my first view of the city.

I chose the Nadler group of hotels after searching online for boutique hotels in London with a central location and good ratings. The Kensington location is situated in a historic townhome ideally located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Kensington High Street is less than two miles away, leading to Kensington Palace, home to Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. The area is the smallest borough in London and the home to embassies and within a short walk to Museum Row and luxury department stores. Long rows of historic white town homes line the streets, a mixture of private residences and businesses.

After arriving at Heathrow, I hopped the Tube to Earl’s Court Tube Station, where I had a five minute walk to the hotel. I arrived at the doorstep the hotel on a deceptively sunny Autumn morning. A light wind kissed my neck as I heaved my heavy suitcase up the stairs.

The Nadler Kensington is a multi-level property, with a long entryway that opens to a cozy lobby area and front desk designed as a parlor room with a towering shelf of books to browse, a fireplace and modern furniture. The multilingual staff is very helpful and accommodating. After arriving a bit early and waiting for my room to become available, I was subsequently upgraded to a Deluxe room, so it was quite spacious for one person.

A neighborhood block in Kensington in London.
A neighborhood block in Kensington in London.

The room came with a super comfy queen bed with a luxury faux fur throw and voluminous pillows. A desk area with complimentary electronic adapters and a very useful USB port (along with free wifi) was also present along with a flat screen television and a large bathroom with a tub and generous counter space for toiletries. The tub was a bit high (I’m short), and additional toiletries like a bath mat had to be requested, along with a complimentary rubber duckie! The room included a hidden kitchenette with a coffee/tea maker, English Breakfast tea bags, and a Britta tap filter. Porcelain teacups and glasses were also included along with stainless steel cutlery.

The hotel is conveniently close to two tube stations; Earl’s Court and High Street Kensington, providing quick access to other tourist areas in the city.

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Kensington Palace and Gardens, London.

25 Courtfield Gardens

London SW5

0PG, United Kingdom