All Posts By thecitycookie

Visiting a Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo

By Posted on 2 min read 1953 views

hedgehog cafe

HARRY HEDGEHOG CAFE

I’ve already shared my experience of staying at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Another item I’ve ticked off my Japan bucket list is a hedgehog cafe. I first heard about the cafe when it opened in 2016 – right after my first trip to Japan!

Last month was my second time visiting Japan, and I managed to drag Chris over to Harry in Harajuku on our second day in Tokyo. No hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this post!

hedgehog cafe in Tokyo
What you need to know:
  • Harry is open from 12am to 8pm, with the last admissions at 7pm.
  • It costs 1,400 yen (around £9 or $12.60 USD) per person for 30 minutes, or 1,630 yen (£10.60 or $14.70 USD) including a hedgehog snack. This also includes a free drink from the vending machine – that means lovely Green Tea!
  • The hedgehogs are well taken care of. Staff at Harry’s will constantly keep an eye out and check how the hedgehogs are doing. Hedgehogs are given breaks, so they’re not constantly being handled.
  • The staff all speak great English and will teach you how to handle the hedgehogs.
  • Harry is located very near Harajuku station. There is another one near Roppongi station.

When Chris and I arrived, the first thing we saw was a tiny vending machine. We purchased one ticket including hedgehog snacks and one normal ticket. A member of staff asked us to clean our hands with disinfectant before showing us to our seats.

We had the pleasure of hanging out with 4 hedgehogs, all with different attitudes and energy levels. A member of staff showed us how to properly scoop up and hold the hedgehogs and then left us to enjoy our 30 minutes. Chris went for the gloves after one of the hedgehogs had a nibble on his finger during the demonstration.

The hedgehogs loved the snacks we got them so I would recommend paying the extra money for that. You’re basically given a tiny bucket filled with a few dried worms and some tweezers to handle them with. If you have the snacks, they’re guaranteed to be interested in you!

feeding hedgehogs

To be honest, I think our hedgehogs would have preferred to sleep rather than play with us and we quickly learned which ones out of our 4 were the most willing to be scooped up. A couple of times we scooped them up so gently that they didn’t even wake up, which was really sweet to see! The Japanese girls next to us thought our sleeping hedgehogs looked very kawaii!

tokyo hedgehog

Check out the video below to see how you’re meant to scoop up and feed the hedgehogs:

I really enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again! Hedgehogs are much better animals for this sort of thing than owls. Even Chris enjoyed the experience!

Have you ever been to an animal cafe? What do you think of this one?

hedgehog cafe Tokyo

Staying at a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo as a Couple

By Posted on 4 min read 4468 views
capsule hotel in tokyo

nine hours Capsule Hotel Review

I just got back from my second trip to Japan and there is so much that I’m excited to share with you! I’m starting with the very last thing we did in Tokyo.

Every traveller will have some sort of Japan bucket list, with things like a karaoke night, a sushi breakfast, eating live octopus or driving a go-kart around Tokyo. Sleeping in a capsule hotel was one of the many things on my list! Although this is definitely a budget-friendly option, it has become very popular for tourists as an experience in its own right.

When planning our trip to Japan I knew I wanted to experience a capsule (or pod) hotel for one night, so I researched all I could find on Booking.com and found nine hours. It looked really cool and modern and its Shinjuku location seemed perfect for our last night in Tokyo.

nine hours shinjuku view
nine hours shinjuku desks
nine hours capsule bed

What you need to know if you’re staying at a capsule hotel

This is all specific to nine hours but a lot will apply to most other capsule hotels as well.

Gender separation

Many capsule hotels will be male only, but nine hours is a mixed-gender hotel. One thing that my boyfriend and I were aware of before going is that they have separate floors (and lifts) for men and women. For one night, at the end of our trip, it wasn’t a big deal though. There is a common area on the 8th floor behind reception where you can hang out together, but it’s not the most lively of spaces. If you’re travelling as a couple and really want to stay together, Kiba Hotel offers double capsules – it just isn’t quite as nice and modern as nine hours.

Checking in & out

Check in begins at 1pm and you have to check out at 10am every day. Even if you have planned to stay several days you will have to check out, check in, pay, and change pod every day. When checking in you receive a bag with a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas, and slippers.

nine hours lockers
Lockers

You don’t get much space in your pod so you have to keep all of your things in a locker. I had a big suitcase and it (just about) fit in the locker I was provided at nine hours. I hadn’t prepared for the night so I had to open the suitcase to get what I needed – don’t do that! Definitely pack a small overnight bag or at least make it easy to find everything you’re going to need.

capsule hotel bed
The Capsule or Pod

I found the bed to be comfortable and there was enough space to sit up. There’s a light and a plug to charge your phone and that’s about it! You can’t lock it so don’t leave any valuables unattended. The only thing that really bothered us is the sound of snoring, people coming back late at night, and alarms ringing multiple times early in the morning. I recommend ear plugs! The pod areas are for sleep only and are otherwise silent, so if you’re travelling with friends or want to use your phone, I suggest that you hang out in the common area or a local bar until you are ready to sleep.

nine hours bathroom
Bathrooms

Toilets are on the same floor as the capsules but the showers are on a different floor. I found the showers to be very clean, stocked with soap, shampoo and conditioner, and there were enough of them that nobody had to wait. There were plenty of sinks and mirrors for the girls to use, and hairdryers were available.

Food and drink

There are no food or drink facilities at nine hours so you’ll have to bring your own water. We made the mistake of assuming there would be some kind of vending machine there! Eating or drinking in the pods is not allowed. In the washing areas you tend to hear strange slurping sounds as people get a last drop of water from the tap before bed… I’d recommend keeping a bottle in your locker.

Shinjuku Omoide Yokochō
Shinjuku
Location

The Shinjuku-North location was great for us. The area around the hotel seems to be a kind of Korea town filled with K-pop shops and Korean barbecue restaurants. It’s a very short walk to Shin-Ōkubo station aand about a 15 minute walk to the famous Shinjuku neighbourhood with its bright lights, games arcades and buzzing nightlife. I recommend going to Omoide Yokochō alley for a yakitori dinner before having a drink in the Golden Gai area.

capsule hotel review

It was a fun experience and it’s really convenient for solo budget travellers. However if you’re looking for a more social experience with an on-site bar or an opportunity to make friends, then I think a hostel would be better. Capsule hotels are far more functional and really just provide a place to sleep – one of my Japanese friends regularly uses First Cabin after a late night at the office.

As a single traveller it’s cheaper than a budget hotel, but as a couple we didn’t save any money. The fact that you have to check-in and check-out each day also makes it less attractive to me. Capsules are really aimed at no-thrills one night stop overs and for this they’re great! The nine hours at Narita Airport is perfect if you have to catch a very early flight.

Would I stay at a capsule hotel again? No.

Would I recommend staying at one? Yes! – if only for the experience and photos.

Would you stay at a capsule hotel?

 

What to Pack in your Carry-on Bag for a Long Flight

By Posted on 5 min read 964 views

What’s in my hand luggage

As I write this, I have an empty suitcase staring at me, waiting to be filled for our very exciting trip to Rome and Japan. At least I have my hand luggage sorted! I’ve been on enough painful long-haul flights where I’ve been freezing, dehydrated, or unable to sleep to know exactly what I need to bring with me. You might think this is a lot of stuff, but we are going to be travelling for over 16 hours so I think it’s justified! Read on to find out what I’m packing in my carry-on…

 

Keeping entertained

Although most long-haul flights have in-flight entertainment, you might still have a bit of dead time at some point in your trip: on the train, waiting at the gate or between flights. I’m flying from Rome to Tokyo via Moscow next week and the first flight doesn’t have any in-flight entertainment, so I’m definitely going to need a few things to keep me busy for 3hrs 45mins!

I’m really into podcasts at the moment so I’ll be downloading a few so I can listen offline (you need to download Serial if you haven’t already). I think they can be nice to listen to as you’re drifting to sleep on the plane. I love my Happy Plugs wireless headphones – it’s great not to have any wires bothering you when you have lots of things to carry around, and the rose gold details on them are so nice.

I’ll also download a few shows on my iPad mini (definitely Peaky Blinders!) and bring along my cute little cactus audio splitter so Chris and I can watch them together (sadly this doesn’t work with bluetooth earphones!). My iPad pouch is a lovely souvenir from my trip to Peru.

Bringing a book with you is always a good idea, just in case you want to take a break from staring at a screen. My current read in preparation for our trip is Modern Japan which is a super interesting history book! I also like to have a notebook with me in case I think of any blog post ideas, and on some trips I keep a daily diary as well. Papier do some beautiful notebooks. A pen is also essential in case you need to fill in a landing card!

[amazon_link asins=’B0157D3KQ0,B01NBSW6KR,B00KVLYFHM,1786574497,8867320602,B06XHZLCV5′ template=’NewProductCarousel’ store=’citcoo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’bdb40000-dda2-11e7-9c10-ff89c1f4f72d’]

 

Catching some zzz’s

The number one most important thing for me when I’m on a night flight is to make sure I have an eye mask. I like this one because it doesn’t touch my eyes. I also bring a neck pillow with me – at the moment I have a standard one I picked up at the airport but I’d like to get one with proper chin support like this one. When I’m ready to go to sleep I spritz a bit of deep sleep pillow spray from This Works which has a lovely lavender fragrance, and pop in some ear plugs to block out engine noises and crying babies.

[amazon_link asins=’B01M3PNHKJ,B012RVMYYE,B0746LJNS7,B071127TS1′ template=’NewProductCarousel’ store=’citcoo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’b72a7061-ddaa-11e7-840b-4baddd635392′]

 

Getting comfortable

I’m going to be trying these flight socks for the first time on the way to Tokyo. Hopefully they will keep my feet from getting swollen like they usually do! I’ll also be wearing some super warm and comfy leggings that I just bought from Uniqlo because there’s nothing worse than wearing tight jeans on a long flight. Airplanes are often very cold so I’ll bring a the biggest scarf I can find and some warm layers with me too.

[amazon_link asins=’B076CYSY1Q,B071FTB29K,B073WWBX8S,B073QSGBNR,B001DZVEZ6′ template=’NewProductCarousel’ store=’citcoo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’a1d1242f-ddb0-11e7-ac08-1f782fa4661b’]

 

Staying healthy and feeling fresh

Planes dehydrate you so I always buy a big bottle of water (and often a green juice from Pret) before boarding. I know they’ll serve water on the plane but it’s easier to just have your own bottle if you get thirsty in the middle of the night. You should be drinking at least a litre of water to stay hydrated on a six to eight hour flight.

I’m always tempted to buy unhealthy treats at the airport before I board but this time I’ve decided I’m going to bring lots of healthy snacks with me: almonds, fresh fruit, maybe a bag of Propercorn. Apparently the average brit consumes 3,400 calories while flying (!) which I want to avoid!

I always carry some paracetamol and travel sickness tablets, just in case. I’ve caught colds on so many flights that I now also bring a Vicks First Defence spray and some hand gel with me to help ward off the germs!

Also essential to keep me feeling fresh is having all of my dental essentials with me. I’ll bring a toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash with me so I don’t end up feeling gross halfway through the flight.

[amazon_link asins=’B015FHJEVS,B073HF2BYV,B074288GWV,B003ARRDSC,B004GKQGDK,B00MY5P2M0′ template=’NewProductCarousel’ store=’citcoo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’fa628284-ddad-11e7-9048-fd22428e3fa6′]

 

Skincare saviours

The low moisture levels in the cabin mean moisturising has never been more important! I always carry some moisturiser and lip balm with me when I’m travelling. I’ll slather some cream over my face as soon as I board and re-apply after a few hours. My favourites right now are Glossier’s Balm Dotcom in cherry (get 10% off using my link) and the Magic Cream Moisturiser from Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Icons set. I’ve been using Clarins’ anti-aging hand cream every day so that’s coming with me too. The pink pouches that come with every Glossier order are ideal for carrying liquids and creams in my bag and through airport security.

[amazon_link asins=’B00375L8R4,B00EU8A49K,B00F0O5AOM,B0756LJXQR,B0773N5K3L,B016UYPVCQ’ template=’NewProductCarousel’ store=’citcoo-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’a015dcc9-ddac-11e7-983a-55af3d19a093′]

That’s it I think! What items do you always take with you on flights?

What to Do in Berlin in One Day

By Posted on 4 min read 1442 views
berlin itinerary

Berlin: One Day Itinerary

Now, I’m not suggesting that you only need one day in the great city of Berlin, but sometimes that’s all you’ve got! Whether you’re in town for a business trip or for quick city break like I was last month, you’ll want to make the most of what little time you have and see some of Berlin’s most famous attractions.

Here’s my one day itinerary which makes it easy to see most of Berlin’s highlights on foot.

potsdamer platz berlin wall
Start at Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz is a major intersection of roads but also a public square. It used to have the Berlin Wall running through it, and you’ll see a few pieces of it on display next to the metro station exit.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Berlin holocaust memorial
Make your way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

This 19,000 square meter Holocaust Memorial built between 2003 and 2004 is an impressive sight to see. It is made up of 2,711 concrete blocks of different sizes, ranging from 0.2m to 4.7 m, all arranged on uneven ground. I recommend you wander around the blocks, see how you feel when you are so deep inside the memorial that you can’t see anything else around you. Please, just don’t play hide and seek or sit on the blocks! Have a think about whether this is a good memorial for up to 6 million Jews (there is a lot of debate about this) but please be respectful.

Brandenburg Gate
Walk over to the Brandenburg Gate

Built in the 18th century to mark the end of the boulevard Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate is now a symbol of German unity. This gate has gone though a lot! The chariot and horse statue at the top of it was once stolen by Napoleon’s army and taken to France. The gate itself was heavily damaged during WWII, and its access was cut off when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961.

Reichstag Berlin
Reichstag and pretzels
Grab a pretzel at the Reichstag

The Reichstag is the meeting place for the German parliament, the Bundestag. The building was badly damaged by a fire in the 30s and wasn’t properly restored until 1999.

If you wish to visit the building, be sure to book online in advance or reserve a table at the restaurant. It can get busy so you might want to visit early in the morning or late at night to beat the crowds!

Berlin river
Avocado cafe Berlin
Walk along the river and stop to enjoy the view

If you can get a table with a view, I’d definitely recommend making a pit stop at The Avocado, a cute little cafe by the river.

I really enjoyed my lunch there, in the sun, with a view of Museum Island. I had been expecting Berlin to be cold in October so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to eat outside.

The avocado and cream cheese combo was a revelation!

Berlin river and museum island
Bode Museum Berlin
Explore Museum Island

Cross the bridge over to Museum Island, which is home to five museums: Pergamon Museum, Bode-Museum, New Museum, Old National Gallery, and Old Museum. If you only have one day in Berlin, I’m afraid you won’t have time to visit them all. Take a peek inside Bode-Museum’s main hall (pictured above) which you can enter without a ticket.

Berliner dom
Stop to admire Berliner Dom

The largest church in the city, Berlin’s Cathedral can be admired from the gardens in front of it, or you can pay the 7€ entry fee if you want to see the inside of this baroque style building. If you climb up the steps to the top you’ll be rewarded with some nice city views.

Gendarmenmarkt and horse
Gendarmenmarkt
Walk over to Gendarmenmarkt

This is said to be one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares, with the grand Konzerthaus (concert hall) and 18th century French and German Church buildings. Visit around Christmas time to enjoy a wonderful festive market. On your way here, check out some of the architecture on Unter den Linden boulevard, including the Berlin State Opera and the Humboldt University.

Checkpoint Charlie?

So to be honest, I’m not sure if I should be recommending this one. I’ve included it because it is so famous but it really feels like a bit of a tourist trap! This was once the border crossing between East and West Berlin and many people tried, some more successfully than others, to get across to the West side here.

I didn’t have time to visit the museum, but it has very mixed reviews.

Berliner Fernsehturm
Dinner with a view

For a memorable dinner (or drinks) head to the Berliner Fernsehturm, a TV tower that’s 200 meters tall and offers great views over the city. The restaurant is revolving so your view will be constantly changing over the space of one hour! I’ve heard it’s very nice for breakfast too.

Enjoy a show

I’d highly recommend catching a show while you’re in Berlin. Chamaleon theatre specialises in contemporary circus in a beautiful, intimate venue – read my review of their latest show here!

Hotel Palace Berlin
Off to bed!

If, like me, you woke up very early to catch your flight to Berlin, you’re going to want to go back to a nice bed. I can highly recommend Hotel Palace Berlin. I enjoyed my room there so much that I found it extremely difficult to make myself go out and explore the city! My room even had a great view over the zoo and the Tiergarten park. The hotel’s location was perfect, near the metro but also in the heart of Berlin’s best shopping district. Make sure you visit the city’s biggest and most famous department store nearby, KaDeWe!

If you still have energy, go out an enjoy Berlin’s world-renowned nightlife instead!

So that’s the end of a very cultural day in Berlin! Next time I’m there I want to venture to some of the hipper areas like Kreuzberg or Neukölln and experience more of arty, cool Berlin.

Have you been to Berlin? What do you love about it?

What to do in Berlin in one day. Here's a simple itinerary to help you navigate the city and see all of its most famous attractions, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and Checkpoint Charlie.

 

Review: Parade at the Chamaeleon Theatre, Berlin

By Posted on 2 min read 637 views

Back in the summer I received an email inviting me to Berlin to watch the all new PARADE show at the CHAMÄLEON Theatre. Needless to say, I hopped, skipped and jumped at the opportunity. It’s not every day that you get to spend a weekend in one of Europe’s coolest cities and at the same time get to see one of its most unique shows.

CHAMÄLEON is a small theatre located in the heart of Berlin. It puts on two shows a year and focuses on contemporary circus which includes acrobatics, dance, live music and sometimes even singing. I was lucky enough to chat with a couple of people who work there and I could immediately tell that they are incredibly passionate about what they do!

The stage itself is in a beautiful historic ballroom in the Art Nouveau building of Hackesche Höfe. It’s quite an intimate venue with small tables and table service. Sitting at our table (sipping on a gin & tonic) I felt much closer to the performers than I ever do at many of London’s big West End theatres.

The show itself was really impressive. PARADE blends comedy with acrobatics, dance and music. The performers, who come from all over the world and met for the first time this summer, have great chemistry and work together well to achieve amazing acrobatic feats.

It’s incredible what the human body can do. One of the performers, Beata Surmiak from Poland, was particularly impressive and really was the star of the show! She was incredibly strong and could balance her whole body on one hand, on a guys head! I was blown away by her skills.

The show also featured live video animations controlled by the artists in real time in front of the audience, and a great soundtrack of electronic music, pop songs, and live percussion. This made the show even more dynamic and immersive.

Patiently waiting for my G&T before the show starts

Overall, I found the show really enjoyable, impressive, funny and full of surprises! I’d recommend an evening at the CHAMÄLEON Theatre to anyone visiting Berlin. It’s something a bit different that you won’t find elsewhere!

I was a guest of the CHAMÄLEON Theatre however my enthusiasm for PARADE is 100% genuine!