Monday, May 2, 2016

Sakura in Kyoto (+ Travel Tips for Japan)

Hello Framboise Kyoto Outfit
Location: Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and Shrine, Kyoto, Japan
Top: Topshop | Denim: J Brand 'Maria' | Bag: Valentino | Scarf: H&M (old)
Shoes: Splendid (also on major sale at Nordstrom Rack in limited sizes | Sunglasses: Karen Walker | Watch: Michael Kors

I'm so excited to start sharing some my photos and outfits from Japan with you! As most of you probably know, the week before and the week or two after a longer vacation are the worst. I've been running around like crazy trying to make sure things are under control at work. As soon as I got back, I had to grind through a killer week of legislative work, trials, post-work events, and getting through the piles of stuff on my desk, plus all the stuff that had accumulated at home. That left very little time for blogging, so that's why these pictures are showing up here a couple weeks after our trip.

We had a wonderful time in Japan and would highly recommend it to anyone who's ready to see a lot of beauty, technology, food made of fish, and a totally different culture. We loved being immersed in a new world of sights, sounds and tastes, especially during the incredibly gorgeous cherry blossom season. While Japan's natural beauty is stunning on its own, the cherry blossoms just made everything feel magical.

Kimono at Kiyomizu-Dera
Girls in kimono at the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple and Shrine

Kiyomizu-Dera Kyoto
The main temple house at Kiyomizu-Dera

Travel by train:

While we spent about a day and a half in Tokyo adjusting our body clocks, our first big stop was Kyoto, which was only 2.5 hours away on the express bullet train ("shinkansen"), the Nozomi Express. We loved the train system in Japan. Once we got our bearings a bit, it was easy to figure out, and it's such a nice, comfortable way to travel. We purchased first class seats when we could--they were not too much more expensive, but they gave us tons of space, a drink and snack service, and a nearly empty train car.

We couldn't take the shinkansen everywhere we went, but the local trains were nice, easy-to-access, and always on time. The best way for us to navigate the system was to use the "public transportation" option in Google maps when you navigate from one point to another. It would tell us how long it would take, which trains (and platforms sometimes) we should board, and how much it would cost. The tickets can be purchased as needed with a quick ATM-like transaction (in English!) at a computer before you enter the area to go to the platforms.

Quick tip: don't arrive at a train station with just enough time to get on your train--the train stations, especially the bigger ones, have a plethora of shops, food stands, restaurants, gift shops, clothing shops, bookstores, and even whole department stores inside the station. Leave yourself enough time to wander around the train station and check out all the fun stuff you can sample and buy before you board your train.

Kyoto Blossoms

Where we stayed:

We arrived at Kyoto Station, and the hotel we chose there, the Kyoto Century, was an easy two-block walk from the station. The hotel staff was extremely helpful and gracious, and it was nice to be able to converse with them in English since our Japanese is pretty much non-existent. Although the rooms were small, the location near the train and bus station was very convenient, and we had a huge, delicious breakfast at the hotel every morning, which was great for long days of walking and sight-seeing.

I had looked at a lot of higher-end options in Kyoto, but booking them was a challenge due to the high demand for rooms during cherry blossom season (generally the last week of March through the second week in April). If you want to go the traditional route, staying in a ryokan, or Japanese Inn, is such a fun and interesting experience. The ryokans I had seriously considered were in Gion, the old city: The Hatanaka and Kinoe (here's a handy list of the 20 best ryokan in Kyoto if you're interested). Luckily, we got to stay at a beautiful ryokan with a hot spring (onsen) up in the mountains in Hakone as soon as we left Kyoto.

Green Tea in Kyoto


What we ate:

Japan has so much variety in its delicious cuisine. While we were in Japan, we had sushi, ramen, yakitori, kaiseki, izakaya food, and lots of desserts made with matcha green tea (I've come back obsessed with it and have been drinking it nearly every day!). They use so much of what's in the sea in their cooking, and it's all so yummy. While we were in Kyoto, we celebrated our second anniversary at a fancy kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurant called Chihana, and while we enjoyed our meal there, the kaiseki meals we had in our ryokan in Hakone were better.

On many days, we would just stumble into a ramen or sushi shop and order something, and unfailingly, we got really excellent food for the price. Japanese food is pricy, so it was good to balance fancier meals with noodle shops and conveyor belt sushi when we could. We also tried to check out at which restaurants it seemed like the locals were willing to stand in line and then line up with them. The results were always worth the wait. We also found that searching for well-liked restaurants on TripAdvisor or Yelp was another way to make sure we got a great meal, which segues nicely into my next tip below.

Hello Framboise - Walled Streets in Kyoto

Staying connected:

There is no way we could have had such an easy, smooth trip through Japan without our smartphones. They were maps, translators, quick guides to sights we were seeing, and a way to communicate with each other in case we were separated--something that was definitely possible when we were in big cities with giant train stations and tons of people everywhere. On our first day out in Tokyo when we arrived, we found the nearest Bic Camera, which sells tourist SIM cards. Since both of our iPhones are unlocked, it was easy to insert a new Japanese data SIM with a preloaded amount of data on it that would be good for several weeks. This took about 30 minutes and cost about US$35, and it was worth every penny. I know I've given this advice before on previous travel posts, but for us, this is the best way to take a lot of the hassle and stress out of our trip.

Off Shoulder Topshop Blouse

We had some of our nicest weather in Kyoto (and some inclement weather too), so I happily got to wear my off-shoulder blouse I had brought with me, and I even busted out my platform sandals in the sunshine. Walking down cobbled, uneven streets like the ones in Gion in platform shoes is a little sketchy, so I had my trusty Cole Haan flats (in the photo below) with me as well.

Hello Framboise - Exploring Gion Kyoto

Fushimi Inari
At the entrance to Fushimi-Inari Shrine, home of thousands of torii gates; jumpsuit via Topshop

Street in Gion Kyoto
Walking through Gion, the old geisha district

Hope you all enjoyed my Japan tips and photo diary from Kyoto. I'm planning a few more Japan posts with more info on this gorgeous country soon, so stay tuned. When I travel, I always try to take lots of photos and videos and post them to my Snapchat story (I posted a couple minutes' worth each day while we were in Japan). If you have Snapchat, add me (username: helloframboise) to see the very latest of what I'm up to. There are also a few more Japan pics over on my Instagram.

Hello Framboise Kyoto

Thanks so much for reading. Hope you had a great weekend--happy Monday!

x, Tam

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring Pleats + Denim

J Crew Pleated Skirt + Calyer Wash Denim Jacket

Joie Lace-Up Sandals + J Crew Pleated Midi Skirt

Pretty pleats and springtime denim
Jacket: J.Crew | Tee: J.Crew | Skirt: J.Crew | Shoes: Joie (here in metallic or similar in black via Nordstrom) | Bag: Valentino | Sunglasses: Karen Walker

Lots of love for J.Crew this spring--I'm wearing my favorite tee, denim jacket, and twirly new pleated skirt in today's weekend look. This skirt is even prettier in person and swishes nicely when I walk (you might have seen me wearing it a couple days in a row on my Snapchat--username is helloframboise). It seems like sizes and colors are going very fast, so jump on it quickly while it's 25% off right now (code: SHOPMORE).

I've written quick reviews of my tee (read it here) and jacket (read it here) before, and these are both pieces I find myself reaching for over and over. These closet staples are 25% off as well with the current promo, so it's a great time to scoop them up to add to your spring basics wardrobe.

I've been loving all the lace-up shoes available this spring, but it's tough to find a pair that doesn't start to get uncomfortable or dig into my skin quickly. My shoes here are a Joie pair I scored at last year's Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but they're still available at reduced prices in some other colors at Saks. If I were to choose a current-season pair that looks to be similarly comfy, well-made, and budget friendly, I'd pick this Vince Camuto pair via Nordstrom. As far as lace-up flats go, I'm still enjoying my Steve Madden Eleanorr flats, which are currently price-matched at 25% off.

Denver had lovely weather again this weekend, but I actually got to spend a little time in the mountains on Friday and Saturday doing some spring skiing. Despite a somewhat slushy conditions, Sean and I still had a great time on the mountain. We hardly missed the hour we lost switching over to daylight savings. With our jobs keeping us past 5 pretty much every day, we love having a little bit of sunlight in the evening when we finally do leave the office.

Hope Daylight Savings treats you well, too! Happy Monday!

x, Tam

Monday, March 7, 2016

Stripes, Button-Up Denim, & the J.Crew Chateau Trench

J Crew Chateau Trench
Coat: J.Crew Chateau Trench in 'Barley'-- 20% off right now with code GETSHOPPING
Striped Tee: Topshop | Skirt: ASOS | Shoes: Converse | Bag: Chloe 'Drew' in 'Motty Gray'
Bracelet: Vita Fede | Watch: kate spade | Necklace: Roberto Coin | Earrings: Gorjana via Rocksbox

I'm sharing a casual spring look from the weekend today--we are still loving our early spring weather in Denver. (And it's hard to believe that bare legs are possible in early March!) The spring temperatures have brought us some rain instead of snow recently, and my new spring trench from J.Crew is perfect for cooler, damp weather.

Converse & Trench for Spring

You may remember that the J.Crew Chateau Parka was one of my favorite coats this winter (read my review here), so I was happy to see that J.Crew had taken the same silhouette and designed a similar spring coat in a lighter, water-resistant fabric. The Chateau Trench is lined in a darling gingham fabric and has slightly longer sleeves than the Parka, so turning up the cuffs to reveal the lining is a must.

I debated between the Barley color I got and the bright red Fiery Sunset for a bit. I love bright-colored outerwear, but I felt the more traditional color was a better fit with my mostly-neutral work wardrobe. I saw the bright red on Kelly in the City recently, and love how the color looks in contrast with the gingham lining, so if red works well in your closet, go for it!

J Crew Petite Chateau Trench

Since the coat is advertised as water-resistant, I decided to take it for a spin while walking Stanley during a light evening shower. As raindrops hit me, I could see them bead up on the fabric and run off without any soaking through. While I'm not sure if it would keep you totally dry during a downpour, I'm happy with how the Chateau Trench protected me from the average spring rain. I also gave it a quick test under a faucet for about ten seconds, and my arm stayed dry even though the sleeve was completely wet on the outside.

Button-Through Denim Skirt + Converse + Trench

As far as sizing goes, I took my normal 00P, but I noticed that other reviewers thought the fit was a little small in the shoulders. I've found that many of J.Crew's coats are on the smaller side in the shoulders, so if you're looking to layer underneath, it's often a good idea to size up. The bell shape of this coat (something I really like about it) is not as obvious in photos as it is in person. If you're looking for a more fitted, classic trench, this coat is probably not for you. I'd suggest the Icon Trench instead--it's also available in petite and regular sizing and is currently 20% off as well.

This button-through denim skirt is another new addition to my closet. I have a couple denim skirts in my wardrobe already, but I liked the A-line shape and 70's styling of this one. It's such a versatile piece and can be styled for warmer or cooler temperatures. At under $40, it was a budget-friendly option, too! When shopping at ASOS, keep in mind that their sizing runs quite small. I'm wearing a Petite 0 and could have probably gone up a size if I wanted it to sit a little lower on my waist.

Stripes + Button-Up Denim Skirt

Hope you had a great weekend--happy Monday!

x, Tam