What Katie Did in Japan – Mario Kart

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If you’ve been following me on instagram (@bakerbowie) you might have seen this picture pop up recently. Remembering that i’m the kind of person who won’t even cross the road unless the little green man is lit up, let me tell you the story of the craziest thing you can do in Tokyo that I can’t believe is actually legal – go-karting through the busy streets of one of the most populated cities in the world.

We booked a tour with Maricar  who operate from a base in Shinagawa and offer a tour package where a guide will lead your group through the busy Tokyo streets. The one thing that you definitely need to know before considering this is that you HAVE to have an international drivers permit and your passport in order to do this. They will check when you get there and if you don’t have the correct paperwork, no amount of pleading will get you in one of those karts. Anyhoo, we had planned this before we left Australia so with our licences in our hot little hands, we made our way to Shinagawa!

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 The fleet of go-karts wait patiently outside

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NO CRASH
NO ALCOHOL
ENJOY!!!

Thats pretty much wraps it up…

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Once we had checked in with our guide, we were allowed to choose a costume to drive in. They’re not fresh out of the packet so there will be wear and tear. Hot tip: it gets freakin cold on those go karts so don’t be stupid like me and choose a costume with short sleeves. Unfortunately, the pink princess peach dress trumped comfort and I had to go with it.

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I’m powerless before pink.
Also, hubs and friend were Mario and Luigi so I had to go with the Mario theme!

Outside, we were given a little bit of instruction about how to operate the go karts then were ready to start. I’d never driven a go kart before so the steering came as a bit of a shock and I had a little bit of trouble with the left foot brake at the beginning but after about five minutes of driving it all started to feel pretty good.

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Except for the part where there were no seatbelts… that was pretty crazy.

Our guide was very good and always made sure that our group of six was together and as safe as we could be, navigating the busy streets of suburbs such as Roppongi and Ginza. I have to admit that there were definitely times when I zoned out and forgot that I was actually driving through peak hour traffic in a foreign country. Don’t worry though, at those times a taxi would drive up pretty close or a bus would pull up along side me and snap me back to reality! If you are a bit of a shrinking violet, this isn’t the tour for you as things really got going when we got to the giant pedestrian crossing in Shibuya. You might remember it from the film Lost in Translation but if not, it’s a ridiculously populated intersection of about eight pedestrian crossings. When we pulled up to it, the people went wild, clapping, waving, calling out and filming us. Like I said, introverts – this is not for you!

So, after an hour or so of cruising the mean streets of Tokyo, we ended up back in Shinagawa and the warmth of the Maricar office. I can’t believe that this business is legal (you would never get away with it in Australia!) but, as long as it is, it is a must-do if you’re visiting and up for a bit of fun and adrenaline. Whats the craziest thing you’ve done when on holiday that you can’t believe is legal?

What Katie Did in Venice: Coffee at Danieli

IMG_0260So I know i’ve been a grouch about Venice, but I was a total sucker for these sunsets. Can you blame me? After a long day of wandering around and getting lost all I wanted to do was put my feet up and relax. But because I kept getting lost, I ran out of puff long before getting back to the hotel. So we thought we would pretend to be rich and famous for half an hour and kick back at the Danieli.

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This is the kind of place that you feel like you need a chanel handkerchief if you’re going to sneeze. Look at all that marble. Nothing like seeing how the other 1% live to make you feel entirely dissatisfied with the lack of luxury in your own life!

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I had visions of settling into these comfy chairs and sipping on a tasteful and delicious cocktail. Until I saw the price list. And if you baulked at the prices at Harry’s Bar, you don’t even want to look here. Lucky for us though, the ambiance was free!

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So we settled down for the only thing we could consider affording – a cup of coffee. Americano for him and a cappuccino for me. This was a huge concession because I don’t like coffee but I felt that I was trespassing on the goodwill of this place with my general scruffiness and didn’t want to give the poor man behind the bar a heart attack by ordering a cup of tea. Even though these two small cups cost us an arm and a leg (each), they came with this generous silver platter of biscuits. I won’t lie, I ate the lion’s share of these tasty treats. You know you wouldn’t have believed me if I said otherwise!

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It was quite peaceful and the staff were lovely and never made us feel like we shouldn’t be there. But, after spying on the rich resting for a while, we decided we had had our fill of luxury and navigated our way through the multitude of marble columns and antique furniture to the outside world. One day…

Soooo what’s the most luxurious fancy pants place you’ve ever trespassed in? Tell me in the comments section!

Hotel Daniele
Castello 4196, Venice, 30122, Italy
Phone: +39 041 5226480
Website: http://www.danielihotelvenice.com/

What Katie Ate in Milan: Sabatini Pizzeria

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On our final night in Milan we found ourselves wandering the streets in search of a fancy bar that I had read about in a guidebook. Unfortunately, I am pretty much the worst navigator in the history of the world and had not only forgotten the map but forgotten the name of the bar. We walked for what seemed like hours until deciding to just give in and find somewhere less fancy and more filling. Hubs thought that he recognised the area of the city we had wandered into and remembered eating at a great pizzeria with his family years ago. After wandering aimlessly some more, we decided to employ the fail-safe method we had developed of finding somewhere good to eat in Italy – the white neon sign. It seemed as though the white neon was the secret code for “this is not a tourist trap but a pretty nice place to eat”.

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The interior of Sabatini is large and welcoming with staff who are clearly experienced and genuinely happy to see you. After some banter with our waiter where I tried my hand at a little conversational Italian again, we settled in to do the other favourite activity of restaurant-goers which is people watching. Which is when I saw this… IMG_0185

Oh yes, that is a full sized motorbike in the of the dining room

It was then that hubs realized that we had actually stumbled upon the pizzeria that he had visited years earlier with his family. Win!

IMG_0183One thing I love love love about Italy is that you can’t have a meal without some slices of crusty bread
or, in this case, crusty bread AND bread sticks! Carb heaven!

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That conversational Italian that I mentioned before? Yeah I ordered wine in Italian. No biggie.
And before you say it, no, I didn’t order fish wine by mistake…

IMG_0187My pizza came exactly how I like it with a thin but soft and bubbly base, enough tomato sauce and a healthy dose of olives, mushrooms, ham and marinated artichokes. Really, marinated artichokes should be added to everything.

For our last night in Milan, this restaurant was perfect. We had a relaxed dinner of delicious pizza with friendly and attentive staff. I particularly loved the way they had all the desserts spread out on a table so that you could see what you would get when you ordered. Unfortunately, we were so damn full of pizza that there was to be no dessert! Until I caved and stopped at a gelateria on the way back to the hotel. And i’m not even sorry.

IMG_0188So I can now have the pleasure of saying that we ate “probably the best pizza in Milan”
at Sabatini. So Italian!

Sabatini Ristorante PIzzeria

Address: Via Ruggero Boscovich 54, Milan
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm-3pm for lunch and 7pm-11pm for dinner

DIY: Tea Caddy Potted Herbs

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One of the things i’ve learnt as i’ve grown up is that you need to make your own happiness. My husband said this during his speech at our wedding and it is wise advice. So i’ve been trying to find things in my life that calm me and make me happy when things aren’t going so well. One of these things is my little balcony garden.

My mum was always an avid and talented gardener and we had the most luscious and colourful garden when I was a child. I never had much interest or success until we moved into this apartment and I thought I would have a crack at it. What was the worst that could happen?

Being an avid tea drinker I had a couple of cute, empty tea caddys lying around taking up space so I thought, why not use them as pots? I chose some herbs that wouldn’t take up much space and wouldn’t mind being a bit stunted (as the caddys have very narrow openings there isn’t much room for the plants to grow).

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I decided on purple sage (hidden at the back of this picture) and lemon thyme for this potting experiment

IMG_2858bashed a few drainage holes in the bottom of the tins using a screwdriver and hammer (much to hubs’s chagrin…)

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and potted the herbs with a bit of potting mix.

It’s far from a perfect situation for these little herbies to grow as its difficult to get enough potting mix in that tiny hole once the plants are in but they look so damn pretty I don’t even care!

IMG_2862And here they are, enjoying their new home on my balcony!

These little herbs have been so resilient and given me a decent crop for my cooking. I can’t say that they have flourished but they have certainly prevailed against caterpillars, scorching hot afternoon summer sun and some seriously neglectful watering. I would probably choose tins with a wider opening or cut the top out of them next time. Please, learn from my mistakes! In the end, this project certainly helped increase my happiness and I really love sitting on my balcony and seeing my little plants grow against the odds. What small things do you do to choose happiness?