A Rainy Rainforest Getaway

Food, Lifestyle, missjessamy, Travel

This past weekend, my family surprised my Dad with a weekend away to the Tamborine Mountains to celebrate his birthday. 

It rained ALL WEEKEND which we were not mad about at all because a) Queensland really needs the rain and b) this rainforest area turns into the cosiest and more beautiful area when it rains. So we still had a really lovely time. 

Even though the weather limited our activities of going out and about on walks and exploring the town, it was really nice just to have some downtime and cuddle up inside and enjoy warm drinks, wine and yummy food. 

So, here’s my breakdown of this weekend covering where we stayed, what we ate and what we did. Enjoy!

Accommodation: Songbirds Rainforest Retreat

We stayed in the Villa at Songbirds Rainforest Retreat, which was a fully self-contained house with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious living area, kitchen and balcony. 

The only downside to this accommodation was that there was the need for some general maintenance in the house including shower nozzle and sink deep cleans and locks on the screen doors leading to the balcony. 

These issues were nothing major at all, and the end of the day may have led to making the experience more quaint and homey. However, to take this accommodation to the next level, this maintenance is needed. 

Gallery Walk offers a super quaint and cosy selection of cafes and local stores selling homemade/locally produced produce including fudge, honey, candles, Cuckoo Clocks, the lists goes on. 

We dined at two places along Gallery Walk, both for our Saturday and Sunday breakfasts. 

Songbirds’ restaurant is not open for breakfast, so unless you choose to have the breakfast basket delivered to your accommodation, you will have to venture out. 

Saturday Breakfast: The Treehouse

This cafe was very cosy and their menu offered a great mix of sweet and savoury breakfast options, including some very unique and delicious gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options. 

I got the ‘bucket size’ turmeric latte on almond milk, and it was the perfect spicy drink to find comfort in on this rainy Saturday. This latte was definitely heavier on the turmeric side of things, which I LOVED! But the cafe supplied honey you could mix in to sweeten it up if you like. 

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I was most impressed with the gluten-free and dairy-free french toast this cafe offered. My mum ordered this dish, and I totally forgot to snap a picture of it- but trust me, it was DELICIOUS! And I would order it if I returned to the cafe without a doubt. 

However, I ordered the Vegan Breaky with added vegan cheese, and this was so yummy. A super comforting meal that was filling and full of flavour. It featured a tomato, onion and bean mixture with avocado, mushrooms, spinach and gluten-free bread. It was super yummy and was the perfect cosy breakfast choice in the rainy weather. 

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My Dad went for the salmon eggs Benedict, and my sister opted for the classic eggs and bacon on sourdough toast; both reporting back that their dishes were super tasty. 

All round, this cafe was a winner and I would 100% go back and would also recommend it all Mount Tamborine visitors. 

Saturday Activity: Songbirds Wine Tasting 

As part of the gift for my Dad, we set up to have an afternoon wine tasting onsite at Songbirds. This was a fantastic afternoon that exposed us to a variety of delicious local and international wines. 

The staff were very well educated and took the time to offer as much information as possible about each wine and tell us its full history; which was very interesting and enhanced the wine tasting experience. 

The only downside of this tasting was the variety offered on the charcuterie board. For the number of wines we tasted (10), a small amount of cured meats, a few pieces of dried peach and pickle and some bread was all that was offered. 

However, the overall experience was lovely, and the wines we tasted were all so varied, and most of them were delicious. The staff took the time to select wines my Dad would like but also offered us some that were unique, which was really lovely.

I would highly recommend this experience; it was a lot of fun and a great gift idea for any wine lover in your life. 

Saturday Dinner: Songbirds Restaurant 

For dinner, we booked the restaurant located onsite at Songbirds. The set-out and overall vibe of this restaurant was beautiful and very cosy. However, in my opinion, this restaurant was overpriced for the quality and complexity of the meals.

My mum and I ordered a chicken, coconut and pumpkin dish and it was extremely basic with not much going on at all. The portion size was enough for us without an entree, but for others, I would say it would be too small and I think some added vegetables would be great. 

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Also, this restaurant does not offer ANY side dishes, which is something that would have helped bulk out the meals and probably made me like my dish more because I could’ve added in some salad. 

On the other hand, my Dad and sister ordered the steak, which was pricey but it was a generous serving when compared to the chicken dish and was ultimately worth the money. 

We did not have dessert at this restaurant because we had brought along a birthday cake for my Dad and it was back in the room. However, across the board, the selection on their menu was minimal and slightly disappointing. See their menu here.

Although the food was nice, it was not overly exciting and it was overpriced, leading me to say that I would not go back to this restaurant. 

Sunday Breakfast: Wild Plum Kitchen

On Sunday morning we headed to this great cafe with many gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan food and drink options.

Another day, another big ole’ turmeric latte. This latte was one of the most unique ones I have ever had due to the kick of spice that was mixed in. I am assuming there was some kind of cayenne pepper in the mixture and it was delicious.

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My mango smoothie bowl was simple but delicious. Being made on frozen mango and banana and simply topped with nut-free granola and coconut chips, this was a fresh and light breakfast that was super yummy and tasted like mango sorbet. 

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My sister got the sourdough french toast with bacon and maple syrup, my Dad got the Croque Monsieur, and my mum got a mushroom dish that came with feta, pumpkin hummus, dukkah and gluten-free bread. All reporting back that they thoroughly enjoyed their meals!

The coffee here was grea with the coffee art and milk texture being 10/10. 

Both of the cafes I have mentioned (The Treehouse and Wild Plum Kitchen) are located at the top of Gallery Walk directly across the road from each other. They both offer a varied and delicious menu with options for most dietary requirements or food cravings. 

If you are looking the ultimate weekend getaway destination that takes you away from the hustle and bustle, then Mount Tamborine is a great option. Everyone was so lovely and the surroundings were stunning and tranquil. Overall, we had a great weekend getaway celebrating my fantastic father’s birthday <3. 

If you want to find out more about Mount Tamborine, check it out on Visit Tamborine MountainThis is not a sponsored or affiliated post, all opinions are my own. 

 

My Japan Travel Diaries 

Food, missjessamy, Travel

I went to Japan twice in 2019, and I would have never expected it to become one of my favourite travel destinations! The atmosphere, look, feel, food and people all create a place that I truly fell in love with.

So, having visited this location twice last year, I thought I would accumulate the information and experiences I had on each of my trips and showcase my Japan travel guide (of sorts) to help you see why it is a MUST VISIT destination.

My Two Trip Summary: 

So firstly, why did I go twice?

Well, a Christmas/New Year’s family holiday was on the cards since the beginning of 2019. And then in March four of my friends and I decided to book a two-week-long trip during July, as flights were super cheap and we were all free (which is very rare).

During my July holiday, we remained in Tokyo and stayed a week in Shinjuku and a week in Akasaka.

Where as, for my December trip my family and I stayed in Ginza (Toyko), Hiroshima, Kyoto and then we went back to Tokyo where we stayed in Tokyo Bay for three days to visit Disney.

What amazed me about visiting Japan twice in one year was how different both of my trips were when I visited the same locations in Toyko. The most significant difference that I noticed between my two trips was the busyness of Tokyo.

Firstly, and sort of obviously, Tokyo was INSANE during Christmas and New Year’s. However, coming from Australia, Christmas is a public holiday for us, and it is a MASSIVE holiday celebration. However, we were super shocked to find that people went to work on Christmas Day and not only that, but, other than retail marketing and advertising there was nowhere near the presence of Christmas as there is back home.

However, this flipped when it came to New Year’s. Back home, New Year’s means a big party and fireworks show at midnight, and that is it. However, in Japan we found out it is a BIG deal. We were lucky enough to celebrate our introduction to 2020 at Disneyland, where we watched the midnight fireworks burst from the magical castle at midnight.

This was a great experience but having visited both Disneyland and Disney Sea during my July trip, I was shocked to see the massive increase in guests at the park over December and January. Now, we expected the festive season would bring extra guests to the parks. But boy, we did not expect it to be THIS busy!!

Having visited Disneyland in LA and Hong Kong and DisneyWorld multiple times, we thought we had seen a crowd, but we were wrong.

This is definitely something to be aware of if you are visiting during the festive season, especially if you are only going for one day. This is because it is tough to fit everything in one day with the crowds.However, crowd control (as always when it comes to Disney) was managed well. Also, with most of the rides having engaging lineups, it was not all doom and gloom; it was just time-consuming.

My Must Dos: 

1- Shibuya: 

Lights, sound, people, food and fun; what more could you want? Since my first visit to Shibuya, I was hooked. It is genuinely an absolute hub for full Tokyo immersion. The bright shop lights and billboards paired with soundtracks being played through the streets and the photo booth and game stores’ hustle and bustle spilling onto the street makes this place is unforgettable.

Tip: Don’t miss exploring the side streets to find some fantastic and unique meals. My favourite place to grab a yummy meal is at this Gluten-Free ramen restaurant where you order your meal on a kiosk before taking a seat.

Shibuya is so much fun and you definitely need to go more than once. Just be aware that it is push and shove, but it is worth it for the atmosphere and experience.

2- Yoyogi Park 

Pure magic in nature.

I visited this park during both of my trips and each time it was magical, calming and just so serene. Not only is the greenery so lush, but all you can hear it the crunch of rocks under your feet and you can smell and feel the crisp fresh air. This park is a great way to take yourself out of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo without having to go too far.

3- Studio Ghibli Museum 

Fan of Ghibli or not, this is a must-do (just make sure your pre-book your tickets well in advance)! The architecture at this museum is breathtaking and magical; you really do step straight into a Ghibli film.

Walking up the winding staircase, squeezing through the tiny doorways or adventuring to see the massive Castle In The Sky Robot on the rooftop; this place is a playground for people of all ages.

One of the most amazing parts about this museum is the tiny detail hiding on every  wall and floorboard. You have to keep your eyes peeled because character appearances and movie references are around every corner.

Tip: Make sure you visit one of the cinema sessions while you’re there! Although the two films were in Japanese, the visuals themselves make the film-watching experience worthwhile.

Also, note that the Museum address is 1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-0013, Japan. We almost went to TWO of the wrong addresses before departing for the day.

4- Disneyland & DisneySea

The reason I added this one onto my top three is because a) it’s Disney, so it’s an OBVIOUS must do! But also, both of these parks are genuinely immaculate and so much fun. I didn’t think the architecture of a theme park could blow me away, but DisneySea did that! It is a STUNNING park that genuinely takes you to another world. The rides, food and just general parks are an unmissable experience for people of all ages.

5- Deer Island (Miyajima)

As long as you are happy to deal with beautiful Deer stalking you around the island and trying to eat your jacket, this island is truly unmissable.

Visiting this island exposes you everything Japan has to offer; culture, shrines, temples, markets, food and overall serene and stunning nature. So, make sure during your Hiroshima visit you put some time aside to hop on the ferry and visit this island.

Time Saver Tips:

Harajuku: 

This is a bit of an unpopular opinion but if you are pressed for time, you can probably skip Harajuku or keep your time there to a walk down Takeshita Street.

I found Harajuku to be overrated when it was compared to other nearby locations like Shibuya or Shinjuku; even the crazy rainbow foods were available in other Tokyo areas.

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Team Lab Borderless: 

You probably already know what this place is because it is in everyones Japan social media content. And do not get me wrong, I really enjoyed visiting this display with my friends during my July trip. However, it is extremely overstimulating and is something that was not very different to the photos I had seen online. I do not mean to sound negative about this place, because it is still stunning. But, if you are short on time, this can be missed.

Shimokitazawa:

If you love vintage shopping then this is the place for you. But buyer be warned, vintage shopping in Japan is SUPER expensive and it is very easy to be sucked down the ‘I should just get it because I am travelling’ mentality and end up spending $50+ on a casual printed t-shirt. So, if you are on a budget please be wary when visiting or give it a miss all together if your schedule is tight. That being said, I still enjoyed my visit here. Even though I didn’t buy anything, the vibe and overall experience was super enjoyable.

Food Allergies in Japan:

The only challenge that I encountered during both my trips was correctly communicating my dietary requirements and finding food on the go that I could eat.

I am gluten and dairy intolerant and my Mum is a coeliac. So, I did have some  leniency with my diet. However, when travelling with my Mum, it was essential we found appropriate food.

Unfortunately, after eating on the go and at multiple buffets, my mother and I can say that we consumed gluten due to difficulty communicating with staff about our needs. However, do not let this turn you off visiting this great destination. Even though it is not extremely easy to find dietary friendly options in Japan, there are still choices, you just have to dig around.

My number one recommendation would be to ensure you have Google Translate on your phone. This will allow you to scan packages to see if they contain the allergen you need to avoid. This app is a MUST if you do not speak your destination’s language and it saved us many times throughout the trip.

Secondly, Family Mart and 7-Eleven provide more snacks than you could ever imagine, and there are gluten and dairy-free options here. Sushi, edamame, salads, mochi, fruits, bars, milk alternatives and more are all available at these convenience shops and acted as lifesavers when we found ourselves in a food pinch. Also, these stores are quite literally on every street corner, so you can always get at least a small snack.

If you’re looking for something more substantial though, check out these places where I ate and had NO problem obtaining gluten and dairy free meals. All of the listed places had delicious food and fantastic service:

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Me with the best GF bread from Sodoh

We had breakfast included at all our hotels during our Christmas trip, and we found that most locations had allergens marked on the food labels which was a great help!

When these labels were not available, or we were in a restaurant, we used THESE cards. Having these cards enabled us to communicate our allergies to staff, and they were then able to disclose whether or not we would be able to eat there. Having pre-organised most of our eating arrangements/ eating out of convenience stores a fair bit, we mainly used these cards while we visited Disneyland and DisneySea.

Finally, we also packed multiple gluten and dairy-free snacks as backups in our bags that we were able to have when allergen-friendly food was inaccessible. We also packed some gluten-free bread that enabled us to bulk up some meals we would order through room service, as well.

Where I Stayed & Ratings: 

July Trip: 

Super Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho 

Location: Shinjuku

Rating: 4 Stars 

Comments: Due to our late check-in, pillows were ‘sold out’ which resulted in our first night being a very uncomfortable sleeping experience on hard bean pillows. However, staff were incredibly kind and helpful with them providing directions and tips on local places to eat and explore.

This hotel is central in Shinjuku with many bars and convenience stores nearby. Also, Shinjuku station less than 10 min walk away.

Henn na Hotel Tokyo Akasaka

Location: Akasaka

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

Comments: Robot concierge were a great novelty but they struggled to read international passports which made our check-in difficult; resulting in the staff needing to come out and assist us.

The room was very lovely, but super small – so be mindful of large suitcases.

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December – January Trip: 

Tokyo Imperial Hotel 

Location: Ginza (Toyko)

Rating: 5 Stars

Comments: Impeccable service on all levels. From their check-in to bell boys, shops and food service staff. Rooms are well sized. I highly recommend the French restaurant on site. Central location in Ginza but still far enough from the mid-city craziness. Super close to Hibiya station and only a 5-minute walk from Ginza station.

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Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel

Location: Hiroshima

Rating: 4 Stars 

Comments: Great gym facilities and location is right near Eki City and a FamilyMart for all your food needs. Staff were very accommodating; however, the entrance to the hotel is slightly confusing.

Allergens at the buffet were marked.

Hotel Okura Kyoto

Location: Kyoto

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

Comments: Dinner buffet was a fantastic mix of western and Japanese cuisine. Also, the view of the river from the hotel is stunning both day and night. Customer service was fantastic, and we felt very welcomed.

Allergens at the buffet were marked.

Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel

Location: Tokyo Bay (Disneyland)

Rating: 4 Stars 

Comments: Great Disney flare even though it is not a specific Disney hotel. Fantastic dinner and breakfast buffet along with lots of amenities on site. However, due to the busy time of year and the language barrier, our check-in process was long and confusing. However, after this, the staff were very kind and helpful.

Allergens at the buffet were marked.

So, Would I Go Back?:

To me, Japan is a place I could continue to visit regularly. Despite having spent a total of 4 weeks there in 2019 during two seasons, there are still SO many places I have not visited yet. I would love to go during Cherry Blossom season, and next time I would love to travel further out of Tokyo city and spend more time in traditional Japanese locations.

However, I think every time you go, dropping into Tokyo is a must! The atmosphere is unparalleled to anywhere else in the world. But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on visiting the more traditional and natural areas found in Kyoto, for example.

With tourism to Japan continually growing and airline sales happening more and more frequently, if you have been thinking about visiting Japan or want a holiday destination idea, then this place is for you!

Have you been to Japan? If so, what was your favourite place?

Check out more of my Japan highlights on my Instagram @jessicatathem