Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Side Street Style

Family travel and lifestyle blog

01/10/2022

How to have a Japanese-inspired Day out in London

Kyoto Gardens
Enjoying Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park



My kids and I, like many people, have a deep love and fascination for everything Japanese and while we would love to jump on a plane to Japan (hopefully we will one day) right now with ongoing travel restrictions that are still in place in Asia means that's not the most feasible option. So how do we learn more about Japan and experience some of the culture without actually travelling there? First of all, we have been reading a lot of books, watching documentaries and films and learning how to cook some Japanese-inspired food at home. But then my son asked if we would have a Japanese-inspired day out in London for his birthday and like any major city London is a melting pot of cultures and influences, so we set out to see what we could find.


Kyoto Gardens



1. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park

We started the day with a relaxing walk around the beautiful Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. Kyoto Garden was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom. As soon as you walk into the carefully planned and landscaped garden you feel a sense of tranquillity and calm especially as you approach the tiered waterfalls and pond full of koi carp, surrounded by stone lanterns and Japanese maple trees. We also spotted a rather majestic peacock wandering around the garden which only added to the unique atmosphere. The Kyoto Garden is free to explore, open daily from 7:30am and is a lovely spot to start the day. 


Japan House London
Exploring the exhibition at Japan House



2. Japan House London

The cultural home of Japan in London, Japan house was created in 2018 by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs to showcase the best of Japanese culture, crafts and food. Here you will find Akira Restaurant (we didn't eat here but I've heard it's excellent) on the upper floor, the ground floor offers an emporium selling a curated collection of crafts from different Japanese artists and designers. The ground floor also has The Stand, take away drinks and snack bar stocking authentic teas such as iced matcha and sencha teas as well as a small seasonal menu. Downstairs is an exhibition space, we explored a free exhibition called "Windowology: New Architectural Views" which was really interesting, they also host film screenings and talks here. 

3. V&A Japanese Collection

The V&A houses a permanent and free Japanese collection in The Toshiba Gallery that is well worth visiting and will be of interest to both children and adults. The collection includes paintings, textiles, armour, woodwork, sculptures and ceramics, as well as modern and contemporary crafts and gives a good grounding into the history of art and culture in Japan. 

If you have time you can also pop over to the Natural History museum and head to the Volcano exhibition and experience what it's like to be in the middle of an earthquake in Japan - it's interactive and my kids found it really interesting. 

Mochi Donut
Trying a Mochi Donut at Japan Centre



4. Japan Centre and Mochi Bar, Leicester Square

Both my kids and I were keen to pick up some tasty snacks. to take home and Japan Centre in Leicester Square has everything you need and more making it an authentic Japanese dining and shopping experience with open kitchens and a central dine-in basement courtyard. On ground level they also have the Mochi Bar, a Japanese bakery serving up freshly hand-baked delights such as mochi donuts, mochi ice cream and bubble tea, we, of course, had to try some Mochi donuts and they were delicious. 


Yokocho



5. Experience Tokyo Ramen at Yokocho

Luckily over the time we visited Heddon Yokocho near Regent Street was having a special Godzilla event and as both my kids and I love retro Godzilla we had to make a visit and taste their amazing Ramen and Godzilla-inspired cocktails (for me, not the kids). Both the interior and food transport you to the alleys ways of Tokyo, "Yokocho" actually means alleyways which are hidden off the main streets of every city of Japan and offer delicious restaurants and street food. I cannot recommend this place enough, the food was amazing and the kids ate every last bite of theirs as well which is always a win! It was a great way to end a Japanese inspired day out in London.

We had also planned to visit Kew Gardens which has a large Japanese garden, Bamboo Garden and Minka house but unfortunately, we ran out of time but that is another place to put on your list.


Yokocho


It's Time to Start Thinking About Your Autumn/Winter Style

Autumn fashion

*This post contains affiliate links

It's that time of year again! The trees are bare, the air is chilly, and we're all bundling up in our warmest clothes. But just because it's cold outside doesn't mean your style has to suffer. In fact, winter is the perfect time to experiment with different textures, layers, and colours no matter what your personal style is. But not only that, but it’s also time to stock up on some of essentials that will carry you through this season.


Fall and winter fashion can be tricky especially at the start of the season when the temperature fluctuates between warm and chilly. It's not as easy as throwing on your favourite outfit that has seen you through summer and calling it good. But there are ways of tackling the colder months that will keep you feeling good about yourself and warm all at the same time. One of the key to pulling off a successful fall or winter look is to focus on the details, a simple way to do this is by adding a scarf, a hat, or even a belt. But let’s take a look at three elements that will help you with your styling.


Tartan pattern


1. It’s Time to Play With Texture

Winter is the perfect time to experiment with different textures and fabrics. It's the one time we can really embrace things like the tartan print and a mix of textures not only looks stylish, but also keeps you warm. Try pairing a fuzzy sweater with corduroy pants. You can also add a pop of texture to your accessories. A chunky knit scarf or gloves will add some visual interest to your outfit.


2. Layer Up!

Layering is a must in the UK, especially if you regularly go from the inside to the outside and vice versa. Not only does layering keep you warm, but it also allows you to play with different proportions. Try pairing a top with an oversized sweater or long coat. Layering can also help you transition your summer clothes into fall and winter. For example, if you have a light summer outfit that you love, you can layer it over a turtleneck or long-sleeved tee for a winter-appropriate look.

3. Making Fall/Winter Colors Work

Winter is often associated with dark, muted colours like black, grey, and brown. But don't be afraid to experiment with other shades! Jewel tones, pastels, and even white can look great in the wintertime. Just make sure to pair them with other colours in similar hues so that your outfit doesn't look too jarring. For example, if you want to wear a white sweater, pair it with other whites or creams. This will create a cohesive look that is both stylish and winter-appropriate.


Autumn shades




The 6 Styling Essentials to Invest in Now

As the weather starts to cool down, it's time to start thinking about what you really need in terms of essentials to get through the colder season comfortably but still feel good about what you're wearing! Here are the top 6 winter fashion trends for men that will keep you looking good and feeling comfortable all season long.

1. The Puffer Coat

Puffer coats have been popular for a few years now and they don't seem to be going anywhere. They're perfect for cold weather because they're so warm and comfortable. And there are so many different styles to choose from that you're sure to find one that fits your personal aesthetic. Whether you want a solid colour or a fun print, there's a puffer coat for you.



Puffer coat


2. Chunky Sweaters

Chunky sweaters are another great option for keeping warm in the winter. They also happen to be very stylish and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Pair a chunky sweater with some jeans and sneakers for a casual look or dress it up with slacks and a blazer for a more formal outfit.

3. Flannel Shirts

Flannel shirts are always in style in the fall and winter. They're perfect for layering under a sweater or jacket and they add an extra element of warmth on those especially cold days. Plus, they come in a variety of colours and patterns so you can find one that fits your personal style perfectly.

4. Beanies

Beanies are a must-have accessory in the wintertime. Not only do they keep your head warm, but they also look great! They come in all different colours and styles so you can find one that matches your day-to-day outfit or goes with a more specific outfit if you're going out on the town.

5. Boots

Boots are essential for snow, rain, and cold temperatures. And luckily, there are so many different styles of boots to choose from these days that it's easy to find a pair (or two) that fit both your needs and your sense of style. Whether you're looking for something practical or something fashionable (or both!), there's definitely a pair out there for you.

6. Scarves

Scarves are the perfect way to add an extra layer of warmth. They come in endless colours, patterns, and materials so you can find one (or two...or three!) that fits your personal style perfectly. And they're so easy to throw on when you're heading out the door on a cold day!


Styling Your Favorite Fall/Winter Fashion Today

These are just a few of the many fashion trends that will keep you looking good and feeling comfortable all winter long! Experiment with different styles and see what works best for you. With so many options available, it's easy to find a winter wardrobe that expresses your personal sense of style while still keeping you warm throughout the season!

26/09/2022

Glamping at Top of The Woods, Boncath, Wales

Top of the Woods


So nice we did it twice! I have to say it's not often that I rebook a place, simply because I love to try new places but Top of the Woods, in Boncath West Wales is worth a revisit, in fact, I can see it becoming somewhat of an annual tradition especially as it offers family and dog-friendly accommodation. Perhaps because you really can switch off here, phone reception doesn't exist and only the thinnest slither of wifi can be found near the main farmhouse and it's patchy at best but that's not why you come somewhere like Top of the Woods, you come to make real connections, with nature, your family with new friends, in a gorgeous rural location completely off-grid.


Top of the woods


Top of The Woods offers 3 glamping options - Pioneer Camps, Nature Domes and Safari lodges, all of which are comfortable and high-end with private & undercover cooking areas but some offer more facilities. 

On our first visit, we stayed in a Nature Dome and our second in a Pioneer Camp, so I will focus on these for this review as I can offer my first-hand experience of them. There is also meadow camping for those who want to bring their own tent, with lovely views and large wild meadow for children to run and play.


Nature Dome

 
Nature Domes - these are great even for the slightly off-peak months, we stayed in one in September and the dome remained cool during the day and nice and toasty in the evening with the use of the wood burning stove, honestly we didn't feel chilly once. The domes all come with awesome views across the welsh countryside where you can enjoy a cafetiere coffee in the morning which you can find in your own undercover camping kitchen, which really does have everything you need to cook up a feast. The dome also has solar lighting throughout and blackout curtains to help keep out that very early summer sun. The interior itself is also stylish with wood flooring, welsh wool blankets and rugs and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.


Pioneer Camps


Pioneer Camps - our stay this year was during a heatwave and I'm so glad we opted for a Pioneer Camp tent which in the extreme heat offered more ventilation than the Domes (don't be put off the Domes, it was extreme heat) and while they are slightly more back to basics than the Domes, we loved it. The camps are surrounded by a wildflower meadow and woodlands and come with their own firepit & wagon-style covered kitchen. There is raised wood flooring inside as well as a log burner which we didn't need to use on this occasion and soft crisp bedding which meant we got a good night's sleep.

Regardless of whether you decide to camp or glamp everyone has access to an array of facilities on site which not only ensures you stay comfortable but also encourages a connection with nature and community. The Dutch barn is a focus point of the site and offers a large all-weather covered picnic area, freezers and charging points should you need them (but as I said there is zero phone reception here). Right next to the dutch barn is the hammock garden, which both myself and my kids loved as well as the communal fire pit which hosts campfire stories during the summer holidays.


Hammock


While refreshingly there isn't a "play park" as the whole site is there for children to explore, there is a willow garden, a games room with plenty of board games, a waterfall trail and lots of space to run free. The site is also completely car-free with wheelbarrows on hand (again very popular with my kids) with parking only being a short distance away but knowing there are no cars driving around brings an extra peace of mind to parents with kids who will naturally enjoy running across the meadows. If you wake up early you can also join Jon to meet their three resident Kunekune pigs which are adorable.


Wild swimming
Wild Swimming in the River Teifi

 

Things to do close by

I would highly recommend the Waterfall walk which takes you through the stunning Fynnone woods to Fynnone waterfall which really is somewhat of a hidden gem and makes for a great adventure-filled day out that costs nothing except a packed lunch (and spare clothes if you plan to take a dip in the waterfall pool). 

We also really enjoyed a visit to both Newcastle Emlyn Castle and Cligerran castle, both of which are free to enter and explore and for those who love Wild swimming then there is a great spot suitable for young and old on the river Teifi just behind Cilgerran castle. 

If you like partial to ancient neolithic history then I also encourage a visit to Pentre Ifan, a neolithic chambered Dolmen thought to date from 3,500 BC as well as the surrounding Ty Canol Ancient woods.

There is also plenty of coastline to explore and we really enjoyed hiring Kayaks in Cardigan and then enjoying a short walk over to Pizza Tipi for some of the best Pizza you will taste in Wales. 

You can of course opt to take it really slow and just enjoy the peaceful surroundings of Top of the Woods, which is what a lot of people come to do. 

Top of the Woods Eco camping and Glamping is found in Boncath, Pembrokeshire and is open from the end of March 2023 to October 2023, so if you looking for a springtime adventure next year keep this place in mind. 


Glamping Wales


14/09/2022

6 Unique Outdoor Experiences in Southern Wales

Cardiff Castle

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South Wales is the perfect base for getting outdoors and reconnecting with nature and it's packed with hidden gems, waterfalls and mountain trails suitable for all ages and skills. It's well known for the Brecon Beacons, the Wales Coastal path and lots of Castles but there is even more that awaits you in this part of Wales and I thought I would share 5 truly unique experiences to try in South Wales that will get your outdoors, in the fresh air in a really positive and fun way and all of these suggestions are perfect for the whole family, if you want to get the kids invovled as well. 


Wild foraging


1. Try Wild Foraging 

Wales is a haven for foragers as we have an abundance of woodland, meadows and coastline to explore but of course you need to go with someone who is knowledgable about the local area and knows what is safe to pick and safe to eat. There are a variety of foraging workshops across South Wales that will teach you about wild food life, how to identify wild edibles and their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Gourmet Gatherings, based in Monmouth offers a guided tour along the Severen Estuary, with it's hedgerows and meadows, it's a great way to explore the local area while learning something new. 


stargazing


2. Go Stargazing with an Astronomy Adventure

Have you heard of Dark Skies Wales and Astro tourism? Well it's a thing and Wales is the perfect base for an astronomy adventure. While much of the UK is affected by light pollution, here in Wales we have an abundance of places that are perfect due to their rural location and allow you. to expierence the natural wonders under dark skies. If you decide to try out an evening with Dark Skies Wales you can expect to be guided by experts to learn the basics of astronomy, spot different constellations and comfortable find your way around the night sky.


fishing


3. Have a go at Carp Fishing

Have you ever thought about giving fishing a go? Well South Wales has a variety of natural and well stocked locations such as Cefn Mably lakes, which is perfect for carp fishing in a safe environment. Places like Dyffryn Springs offer tuition for all ages, from complete novices to those who just want to improve a certain skill. This is a great way to spend a few hours outdoors, even if you don't catch anything it's relaxing to be by the water and is a great family activity.  


food truck



4.  Go on a tasty foodie tour of Cardiff

Cardiff is a melting pot of influences when it comes to the local foodie scene and if your looking for a tasty way to explore the city then why not go on a Cardiff tasting tour which not only takes you to local cafes, street food vendors and Cardiff market but you also pass key landmarks in the city such as Cardiff Castle, Principaliy Stadium and the beautiful Bute Park. This tour combines exploring the city, the outdoors as well as some of the best foodie spots in the city. 


bushcraft



5. Get wild with a bushcraft course

Many of us have heard of forest schools for children but what about doing a bushcraft course for adults? The Brecon Beacons and a variety of locations in South Wales are perfect for reconneting with nature and learning key survival skills such as shelter building, fire lighting and wilderness cooking. You can also make it a family affair with family bushcraft camp workshops, I've done something similar with my kids in Wales and they loved it. 


mountain biking



6. Have a go at Mountain Biking

Wales is actually world renowned when it comes to their Moutnain Bike trails and while there are many advanced runs there are also a lot of beginner locations for those just dipping their toe into the adrenaline sport. I recently took my eldest son for an action packed day at Dare Valley Gravity Bike Park in Dare Valley Park which has a free to use pump track and two fantastic beginner blue runs which are also free to use although you can opt to pay for the Uplift and they also offer bike hire on site. You don't need any particular skills except that you fell confident riding a bike. 

So if you are looking for something a little different or want to try out a new skill then South Wale is a great base

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