Apple Picking

It’s the beginning of fall, which in America means it’s prime time for apple picking and other fun fall activities! I’ve never been apple picking and I was told I was definitely missing out on lots of fun. So, on the first fall weekend, we got up bright and early (about 6am) and headed to The Big Apple farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

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It was beautiful weather! It was chilly enough so that you could wear a cute plaid outfit (which we all did, of course), but it was also sunny and the orchard just looked gorgeous. We got to the farm a little before 10 and already there were lots of families with little kids running around, picking apples and taking lots and lots of pictures (as we soon did as well).

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We paid for a small bag, which cost $25, and started walking through, looking for our favorite apples. The Big Apple has a beautiful orchard on top  of a hill, so you are also rewarded with an amazing view.

We managed to fill up our bag fairly quickly (and even snacked on some apples there), so we got back into the car to drive down and visit their store. In the store they have ciders, donuts, caramel apples, honey sticks and, of course, other vegetables and more and more apples! I personally tried the caramel apples and the cider, both of which were absolutely delicious! I also heard the donuts are amazing, so I suggest you try those too!

 

That concluded our trip, but there is more you can do at the farm. I saw they offered hayrides, eventually pumpkin picking and maybe even more! My new American experience was a lot of fun and suggest you try it out as well!

 


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Mozambique

Our three day trip to Mozambique was very relaxing, even though it was short. The road trip there from Johannesburg took a while and there are a couple things you should be prepared for if you’re going to take a trip like this.

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When preparing for this kind of trip, pack everything you might need. Bring plenty of drinks and food, not just as snacks but also to eat at your destination.

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Plan your route well, along with possible places to stop for food. You should also plan the route so that you know what kind of a road you will be driving on, whether it’s a highway or dirt road. If you are going on a dirt road, be prepared for possible floods which will make the road muddy and sometimes impossible to take. So make sure you have a good car that would be able to take a difficult road.

 

The borders between South Africa and Mozambique can take some time and people there usually don’t speak a lot of English. So prepare your nerves when trying to get a visa. There’s also a lot of people trying to go between the two countries, so depending on the time of day, it might take several hours to go through.

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When we went to Mozambique we stayed in a little beach house, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There is a small town close by and some more beach houses, but other than that the beaches are empty, which is absolutely amazing!

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If you scuba dive, definitely give it a go! I couldn’t go when I was there, but I heard you can see some manta rays! Apparently scuba diving is pretty easy going there, so it’s great if you want a relaxing dive. If you don’t scuba dive, you can just go fishing out on the sea. If you get lucky, you can catch tuna, and trust me, fresh tuna is the best! Small tip though, find out how to butcher a fish before you go! You might not have wifi wherever you are, so it’s probably a good idea to be prepared for things like that!

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For me, the three days in the middle of nowhere were amazing, even though it was a little short. So after three days we headed back, sunburnt. On our way back we spent 22 hours in the car, instead of the original 14, because of flooding and having to backtrack and go through Maputo, the capital city. Like I said, plan for everything, even cows blocking the road!


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Prague Zoo

The Prague zoo has had some pretty exciting news as of late and so we decided to pay it a visit this week. A few weeks ago, a baby elephant was born, making it the first elephant to be both bred and born here. And a little while after, a surprise baby gorilla was born. Surprise  because nobody knew the adult gorilla was pregnant. And yes it would be easy to blame the caretakers for not knowing, but if you factor in the fact that the gorilla was old, had been treated with hormones in the past and was never able to carry a baby to term, it makes it for a highly unlikely event. Alas, the baby was born and is now one of the Prague zoo’s prized possessions. And we just couldn’t pass up all the cuteness.IMG_8963

We decided to go on a work day to try to avoid crowds – and we partially succeeded. When we walked into the zoo, there were only about 3500 people. We immediately made our way up the hill, into the upper portion of the zoo and towards the elephant enclosure. On our way, we stopped by in one of the newer and cooler pavilions – the Indonesian jungle. You walk in and you’re transported into a jungle – you see the monkeys, walk through a path between ponds and around tree trunks. The walk ends with a walk through a darkened “cave” where they have bats flying freely.

Between the Indonesian jungle and the elephant enclosure, we stopped by to see polar bears. First, we saw two, who were just lying there, one using the other as a pillow. We honestly had doubts whether or not they’re alive, but then they shifted slightly. Around the corner was a third polar bear was significantly more active. It was swimming around, then pacing. We were surprised how crazy fast its fur dried.

We then finally made it to the elephants, where it was crazy busy.  We managed to snag a pretty good spot to watch the baby frolic around its mother. It’s still too small to go off on its own, but it definitely wants to. We stayed there quite a while, watching.

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From here, we went across a bridge, towards the giraffes and meerkats. The giraffe viewing area was crowded, so we continued along the path to the meerkat enclosure. It’s open on top and glass all around, so you can see the meerkat’s clearly. Since it’s definitely a favorite of the little kids, the open top makes it nice for adults to look over and see things nicely. We couldn’t tear ourselves away because the most recent additions to the meerkat family were born on April 1st, so they were still tiny and cute. We then slowly made our way back around the giraffes and elephants and stopped by for food.

Right next to the elephant enclosure is a restaurant with outdoor seating. You go up to the counter, order and pay and then carry your food to a designated table. They have a great selection of food, so even we, both picky eaters, were able to chose something. They have european, middle eastern, and typical Czech food. A tip for non-Czech speakers – the boards on top of the counter are written in Czech, but they have english menus near the register, so keep an eye out for those. We got an order of fried cheese and fries (a staple in Czech food establishments) and gyros and were pleasantly surprised at how good both meals were. Finally, if you have more people in your party, decide on your orders and have some people stand in line, while other scout for a table. We were there on a weekday off-season and had trouble finding an open table outside (there were tables inside, but we didn’t want to sit there).

 

FullSizeRender 2Tip # 2: Go for the draft drinks – beer, Kofola or Malinovka (a local raspberry flavored soda).

 

From here, we continued to circle the elephants and make our way towards the lonely big cats in the back. Warning – there are two locations for the big cats, so keep an eye out on where you’re going. The zoo is pretty big so you might have to make choices on what you see and what you skip. We saw the leopards and tiger (which was far) and walked back past the wolves and other animals.

We then took the cableway down and didn’t have to stand in line (since most people prefer to take it up and walk down). It can be a bit daunting if you have a problem with heights, but it’s completely safe.

FullSizeRender 6The lower part of the zoo seems smaller, with everything closer together. We saw monkeys (where we stopped by for quite a bit, watching them climb trees and seeing how far up they can go).

When we finally made it to the big cats, it was feeding time. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel too well watching the tiger devour the giant piece of meat he was given. In a separate enclosure was a different tiger, who received food last and you could tell how nervous he was by his fast pacing and general reactions to the people watching him. I normally like big cats, but this was too much – I preferred the snakes and lizards on the other side of the building.

 

 

Because the weather was nice, the lions were in the outside portion of the pavilion. The lion and two lionesses were clearly done with lunch by the time we got there, so they were significantly calmer than the other cats. The lion was asleep and while the lionesses were awake, they were just sitting there, watching the goings on.IMG_9088

After a short break by the lions, we went to the gorilla pavilion, which has a restricted entrance right now because of a recently born baby. One of the gorillas gave birth a couple weeks ago without anyone knowing she had been pregnant (due to old age, past fertility issues and her being overweight). There was a ZOO employee at the entrance, letting in groups of five or so at a time, warning visitors to be quiet and telling everybody to move on if they lingered too long. So we only stayed for a little bit, but still saw the baby and it’s mother, which was adorable.

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From there, we walked through the water world and monkey gardens, where you walk on wooden paths between ponds and see stuff like ducks and flamingos and everything else that lives in or around water. This is great for kids because they can run around and have fun. You can also go inside a small pavilion and see gavials, which were scary looking.

If you have kids, there’s a petting zoo nearby, which we decided to avoid, but it should be worth visiting.

Our last animal viewing stop was for the penguins, which were being their adorable selves. You can watch the time lapse Pav took to see their shenanigans. Unfortunately, the seals weren’t in their enclosure due to cleaning, but normally they’re great to sit down and watch.

 

We were then in desperate need for refreshments, so on our way out, we stopped by a food stand, where we got iced coffee and ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the day. We rested our feet a little, went up to see how many visitors there now were (at that point 6624) and headed out to the bus. Warning! The exit is near the entrance, but not exactly in the same spot, so watch the arrows pointing you there, you can’t leave through the entrance. A great thing is that the buses are outside the zoo, between the entrance and the exit, so you don’t have to walk far.

We definitely had a great day at the Prague zoo and recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Prague, it’s no surprise it’s been ranked 4th best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor.

Final tip: it’s better to take public transportation than to drive to the ZOO, the traffic gets pretty crazy and you have to walk pretty far.

 


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Prague Zoo Time Lapse Video

Czech Traditions: April 30th


Awaji Island

Ferris WheelAwaji Island is across the Akashi Bridge from Kobe and it was the last place I visited in Japan. It is a great day trip, but in a typical fashion, I only had a few hours before I had to pack and leave for the airport.

Just driving around the island was great. The island is made up of rolling hills and mountains, so just driving around is a lot of fun, because you can see a lot. When you first drive over the bridge, you can see the ferris wheel. As you drive on the highway, you pass different towns or just small settlements of the island. You can also see different beaches and even fishermen’s nets set up in the ocean.

 

We drove down to the southern part of the island until we reached the town Sumoto. There we got off the highway and stopped in park for a short walk. Or what we originally thought was going to be a short walk. It ended up being more of a hike that took about two hours. So my tip is bring comfortable shoes! You really never know when you will find yourself on a hike :D!Hiking

The hike was definitely worth it! There were a couple of stops along the way to the top with viewpoints, where we took lots and lots of pictures. When we finally made it to the top, we loved it! Whatever despair or regrets about our choices of shoes we may have felt, it was all worth it when we got to the top. The view was phenomenal! We could see Sumoto on one side and the ocean on the other side of the hill.

IMG_8336So, after taking copious amount of photos, we had to head back down. At this point very thirsty and craving coffee. Since we didn’t really expect a hike, we didn’t bring any water so, my second tip is bring water wherever you go! Again, you just never know when you will want to go on a hike!

Lockers for shoes in RestaurantWe got back down in about 45 minutes and we were starving! Luckily we passed a Yakiniku restaurant on our way there in Sumoto, so all we needed to do was find it. And I’m glad that we did, because we order lots and lots of delicious food, that I still have dreams about! The restaurant is called Tenzankaku, and I really recommend it, because you depending on which set you order, you can eat as much as you want, there is a time limit to what you can eat, rather than the amount of food. Bottomless drinks and ice cream are included! So if you are in that area, definitely go to this restaurant! This is a restaurant where you have to take your shoes off and leave them in little lockers by the door, so just keep that in mind.

On our way back we stopped by the ferris wheel. Obviously, if you are afraid of the heights, don’t go, because it goes very high. But if you aren’t and you love things like this, like I do, the view is so worth it! From the ferris wheel you can see the Akashi Bridge and Kobe/Osaka on the other side of the Akashi Strait. Even if you are afraid of heights, it is a good place to stop. You still get an amazing view of the cities and the bridge from the ground! Also there’s Starbucks right under the ferris wheel, so it is a great spot for a coffee break.Akashi Bridge

Awaji Island was the last place I visited. I wish I could’ve seen more of it, because there are a lot of things to see there, like various Shrines and Castles, beaches and gardens. Definitely go if you get the chance, and let me know what the places I didn’t get to visit are like!


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Japan

Arima Onsen


Arima Onsen

Arima Onsen is another place that I visited only briefly, after my trip around Mt. Rokko. It was enough time to just walk through and explore. It is an adorable little hot-springs town, with various different spa places and lots of shops selling sweets and other souvenirs.

When you park in the center of the town, you can walk along the spring to a red bridge, which is one of the local sights to see. You can also go down by the river, when it’s warm enough, and just sit and hang out for a while.

12822645_10153929314523363_803331105_oWhen you walk into the older part of the center, there are public hot springs on the street, where you can just put your feet in the water (with about four strangers) and warm your them in the 42 degrees celsius water. Sharing the water with four strangers might seem gross but since it was freezing cold that day, we didn’t hesitate and warmed our feet.

Tip: bring a small towel with you! We didn’t and then we didn’t know what to do with our wet feet :( they also sell towels by the hot springs!

 

After warming up, we went looking for some of the shrines that are around the town. After walking through the tiny streets, we found a gorgeous Buddhist temple. Sadly, we did not find the second shrine, but maybe next time :)

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In Arima Onsen there are a lot of hotels and spas, some of which offer public baths in the hot springs and some private. I haven’t visited those either, but I heard they are quite amazing, so definitely look into it, if you have the time!
Arima Onsen is a great place to buy souvenirs and to just go for a walk, especially if you go after seeing Mt. Rokko. I suggest you at least go see the town, even if you don’t want to go into the hot springs!


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Kyoto