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ABI – The Birth!

As some of you may know, back in January I found myself on notice from my shiny new job.  Sometimes life changes direction really quickly!  But I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and for a while now I have had a desire to focus on the things that I feel I can specialise in and add value to others.  After 23 years working in large Insurers at such a high and specialised level & running my own small businesses locally, I have learnt way too much to just walk away to the seaside! (although tempting).

After a lot of brainstorming walks and coffees (and wine) I finally have a business.  I am sure that will develop organically as the business grows – as every good business should, and as I work out what fits each Client separately.  Because that is going to be the focus – Individually tailored programs to give you what you need.  One size never fits all.

So what is it I hear you ask? Tourist advice for Whitstable?  Yes, I am slowly becoming an expert in where I live I am not quite at the peak yet, so its back to my first love – Insurance and Business.  Named ABI Consultancy Ltd, registered, Insured and OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

The aim is to use my skills from the last few decades for Businesses, Insurers and the people in it.  I do believe there is a cross over there – obviously some are specialised areas and I can fill those gaps for teams, but some of the best lessons I have learned are more in planning, strategies, trouble shooting and training.  

I love a problem. No problem is too big and everything can be solved.  I love a puzzle (not Sudoko though, absolutely rubbish at that) – I’m a tenacious little thing at times and I will find a solution – always.

Another one of my real passions is to train and mentor people, spending the time with them sometimes managers do not have, to nurture their knowledge and give them the confidence to be leaders if they wish, or to be the best at whatever their goal is – no matter what that is. Always be your best self!  

Why would people need me?  So what if I can do all this?  

All Companies are battling costs – headcount is almost impossible to get.  The work doesn’t go away, Managements don’t stop setting deadlines and targets, teams are dumbed down to save costs and we see people leave and retire off early as the Business world starts to become more automated and less skilled – but more importantly they leave because they feel they can’t succeed.  

 People need support, they need training and someone to mentor and guide – no matter if you are a large Corporate or a 1 person small business.  Most people have to learn on the job and when the heat gets turned up sometimes they can get lost in it all.  That leads to stress, anxiety, lack of confidence and brain fog.  You can’t see the wood for the trees, and you just end up not being your best person for your Company.  Don’t let that happen to your staff or yourself.  We all need people to lean on professionally, no one is perfect at all aspects of their jobs and its important to recognise that and ask for help.  A problem shared really is a problem solved.

From larger projects and plans, to the jobs that are seen to be the more mundane ones – all are important and need doing.  Need a plan writing?  Backlogs to clear?  Staff to motivate?  Need a bill paying?  Need a trip booked?  Need a system organising? ABI is happy to take on anything to help GET IT DONE.  

Why? I’m more than happy to do those in order to help people meet their targets – both personally and professionally. The lesser tasks lead to the bigger ones, so start from the bottom and see where you end up. You might suprise yourself!

Happy Staff and a clear plan and process leads to happy customers.  Happy Customers equals more business.  More Business equals more profits and rewards.  And lets face it, thats what we are all trying to achieve – whatever level we are at.

So lets get a meeting booked in – face to face, video, FaceTime, calls or email – all options are there.  Whatever works best.  Lets just GET IT DONE.

Al xx

When you walk through a storm…

Well hi there, its been a while hasn’t it!  What a great line from the best song – You’ll never walk alone.  Not only have I sung that to death for my beloved Reds, but its words have certainly rung true recently!

To be honest I haven’t felt like writing as its been a trying few months in many ways, but now things are starting to clear up a bit and I can see the fog lifting I thought it’s time I updated you all. 

Lets rewind to January. Usually a pretty boring and dull month – not this year. 

I’d started January exhausted.  What with commuting 5 days a week into the City, working weekends at the cafe and running and cleaning a holiday let, I was burning the candle at every end.  Something had to snap, and I had a feeling it was going to be a strange few months – call it just a vibe. Anyway it certainly did shake my world… 

Firstly one of my closest friends was diagnosed with Breast cancer. They say 1 in 2 people you know will now get it, but still you never think it will be your friends – the people you laugh with and care for so much. Needless to say it rocked me to the core. But from the start she was incredibly positive and I knew it would be ok somehow. Don’t ask me how, but I just knew.

Sure enough after a tense and difficult few months all the ops and treatment she has the all clear. The relief was immeasurable. The happiest text I’d got all year. 

It did put everything into perspective really quickly.   I realised fairly early in the year (15 days in) something had to give but what do I give up?  All the things I did in life were as important for many reasons, I spent hours trying to juggle them all. I genuinely didn’t expect the ball that dropped to be my full time job! I’ve never been told things weren’t working out in my professional life, I’ve always been extremely happy and stable in my career, but I guess I knew this one was a risk – one I thought was worth taking.  How wrong you can be. But I have to agree it wasn’t working and it was uncomfortable for everyone involved, so off I went…

However as you can imagine the 2 businesses were relying slightly on that income – especially the holiday let. The Insurance Industry that has served me so well for 22 years (I know, I don’t look old enough hey) is in a cycle of uncertainty at the moment and there are several equally wonderful people in my area also out of work. So with a heavy heart I have had to sell the holiday let. Now for those of you who have followed me or know me that REALLY HURT. Not only am I reeling from my safety blanket being pulled away, I now have to sell my pride and joy. But like a plaster the quicker you remove it, the better, so it’s gone. The bills are all paid and I have a nest egg now to see me through the future months. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get much worse we then had to make some changes at the cafe. It doesn’t do any harm to regularly review your businesses and I have never been too proud to admit when things aren’t working or need tweaking. We realised we just needed to be there ourselves. The cafe industry is a bloody tough one, and you really need to pour your all into it. And I mean your all. So we did. 6 days a week, just the two of us with little rest, we have given it everything. That place was and is my sanity.  It reminded me how life can be so much simpler, and it has totally helped me press my reset life button.  It really is the most fun and totally worth it to see the results in such a short space of time. I couldn’t be prouder of Toast. It’s a gorgeous business with a real community feel and heart – even I would be a regular customer there. 

Now we have seen what works, what doesn’t quite as well and what we need to do to drive it forward we enter phase 2 so to speak – longevity. Along with a little revamp to really give the people what they want and to show off our best ideas, we are also hoping to expand the private catering and potentially some private dining in cafe. We just need to get our license completed (Council bureaucracy at it’s finest there) and we will be ready to up our game! 

Happy ever after?  Well not quite.  As much as I love Toast it is not going to pay my bills each month. Unfortunately Insurance is not the easiest place to get another job right now so I needed to think a little differently.  After going to several local networking events (including our own Toast Connects evening) the cogs started to turn and I am beginning to see a plan evolving!  After all I always remember someone once saying to me “make your true passion your job and the rest takes care of itself”.  

For 22 years I have worked in an Industry where the people constantly evolve and grow.  I love watching people have the confidence to really shine in the areas they are best at – and I am a huge fan of encouraging their development from their everyday lives and careers right up to running their own teams or businesses.

So hopefully I can expand on that in a way that I can see a career change!  I’m sure over the next few weeks my plans can turn into reality, I know what I am aiming for now and I can really see a little glimmer of light….

So watch this space – you’ll never keep me down for long…..

Speak soon

Al x

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Mothers Day….

Mothers day. The most beautiful day of the year and also the hardest.

For me it’s the worst day of the year. Worse than birthdays. Because it’s everywhere. Every shop you enter is a constant reminder and a kick in the stomach.

But let me be clear. It absolutely should be the most important day of the year and you should spoil your Mums rotten – in whatever form they take.

I lost my Mum 8 long years ago. So for me it’s an awful day. All I can see my beautiful Mum, asking if I’m ok and what I had for tea. Perfection. My

Right arm.

So all I ask – spoil your Mums. Please do. But,also allow us who’s Mums aren’t here to have a day of remembrance.

I’ve spent 7 years battling what to do. My advice? Just do what makes you happy.Smile, dance, relax, Cuddle, eat, chill. Or Cry. Scream. Whatever relieves the pressure.

Your the Important one now.As you always were to your Mum.

So take it slow. Relax. Reminisce. And see you soon to chat Mums

Al xxx

August Al’s Adventures….

Hey! How are you all?! Sorry it’s been a while since I wrote, but things have been crazy!

You may remember from Aprils Al’s Adventures that I had started a new full time job, started a Cafe venture, Toast Herne Bay, and the Holiday let was finally ready to launch! Well, that’s why I’ve not had a moment to think clearly let alone write. But for the first time in 4 months, I have a few hours of no paperwork, cleaning, shopping or chores to do. Well, not for a few hours at least!

So where to begin? Let’s start with the new job.

As you know I was thoroughly fed up of Insurance. It’s going through quite a rough patch and it will only get worse for a few more months yet. I’m starting to see friends leave – either being made redundant, or just walking away. Some of those I’ve known 20 years, it’s not easy to watch. Times are changing – some bits for the better, some not. However despite that I have found an amazing role where I’ve learnt more in the last 4 months than I have in the last 4 years. It’s totally outside of my comfort zone, but surrounded by some of the best in the business it’s such fun. Everyday is a school day for sure! It’s great to flip things on their head and see life upside down sometimes – exactly what this role has given me. Next. Level. Business.

Next – Al’s Beach retreat. It’s finally finished and guest are staying! Thanks to my friends who stayed when there wasn’t any curtains or internet – deffo a discount next time! It’s going well, I have had some wonderful reviews already from guests far and wide, that’s the wonder of travel I guess – I’ve had guests from Bogata, Belgium, Germany & France – all in my first two months! Everyone has been so kind. It’s a wonderful experience to bring such a project together, and see the results. To me it’s like having a baby, it took 9 months to create! As you can see from Instagram (alsbeachretreat) it’s changed a bit. With new windows, electrics, heating, and walls removed – it certainly wasn’t easy. Thanks to all the tradesmen who helped – and tolerated the snow, cold & my stubbornness! Life hack – make sure all workmen have enough tea, coffee & biccies. Your welcome.

Next stage is to build a website (no idea) and get it advertised. It’s on fb and Instagram as Als Beach Retreat and Air B&B here:

Woop woop!

Last, but certainly not least Toast Cafe. The new and second baby of the family. Slowly growing up, making friends and discovering new things everyday. I couldn’t have begun to understand the sheer learning cliff. From setting up a Company, to writing staff contracts, payroll, tax and VAT returns, to rotas, design, promotion and events – in 4 months we have done it all. Sleepless nights, tears and joy – I’ve never experienced anything so rewarding. I don’t have any children of my own (lots of godchildren and friends gorgeous ones to spoil) but I now habe 2 baby businesses!

I absolutely adore this business and all the people in it. From the moment my biz partner Sherry & I were introduced I knew we would work well together. We couldn’t have begun to imagine what we have achieved but we have had such a lot of fun doing this and we could not be prouder. In a short 4 months we have Team Toast, and our passion has spilled into all of them, leading to PROFIT already, 3 months ahead of plan.

So I need to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us, helped is build this, visited us or liked any of our social media. You all lead to us succeeding. Every single one of you – THANKS.

Hopefully now some of you will understand why I may have not been in touch, or been a little silent. In between bulding Al’s Adventures Ltd I’m trying to stay healthy, sane & loving my seaside life when I can. Everyone here has been so bloody lovely I couldn’t feel more loved across all my amazing friends – wherever you are. The best news for me is not a single panic attack this year. Maybe some anxious moments, but no days lost to panic or anxiety. That is huge. So yay me!

I am amazed at what has happened this year and I truly am thankful. They say things happen for a reason – my 2 angels are working their magic at last. Truly blessed for once. To be honest it’s about time!

Right – enough from me for today. I’ve got a plan to write…

Lots of love

Al xxx

Opportunity Knocks…

Hey there. Hope you are all keeping well in this bonkers weather. Totally bored of it now! Sunny, snow, sunny, snow. My winter woolies have been on and off like a lightswitch on speed!😉

Sorry it’s been a few months since my moany blog about leaving my job. It took me a fair while to recover if I’m honest. It truly smacked me right in the face, leading to a mass pizza and wine session and a lot of tears- not a pretty sight. Then followed a week of mild then stronger panic about how to pay 2 mortgages, and it was time to get a grip, pick myself up and start all over again.

I was and am truly overwhelmed by all the messages, cards and calls offering me luck, love and support – as well as the job offers. Thank you for those – believe me I will treasure those kind words from all corners of the globe!

After reading those I realised not all was lost. I still have a lot to offer the Insurance world, just doing things from a different angle. So after a few meetings and a lot of soul searching I decided to give Insurance another go. Not specifically Energy anymore, my love for that has faded along with the standards and flair in that world. I wanted to offer my expertise where it’s wanted and hopefully needed. I am chuffed to bits to announce I am going to join Fidelis Insurance in the near future. This is a dynamic Company with an amazing team where my values and ideas match their plans – who knows where it will take me, but my good old gut feeling is loving this one. It’s genuinely put the spark back in this plug. Yay!

Of course, as you may or may not remember I am slap bang in the middle of renovating a beautiful bungalow just around the corner from me in Tankerton. Its a sunny and happy house but needed some love, so I decided to strip it back to basics and start all over again (bit like myself!)

Walls have been knocked down, ceilings replaced, painting everywhere in between. Over 3 months the transformation has been remarkable- only achievable with the terrific tradesmen I have been lucky enough to find. Its a crucial week thos week – kitchen is going in, decorating finished in several rooms – EEK! Pictures to follow! Once ready friends and family will get to book up for this year to come and holiday in Kent! I can’t wait to show you all the results, and get you all booked in!

Not content with that as a sideline, one snowy day, I met a wonderful friend for a coffee. Sherry (aka Little Pep) and I met via a friend of twitter, and we have got on like a house on fire! So after a long treki n the snow, she had a proposition for me – Let’s open a cafe together! Now, I think the initial offer was in the hope I had 6 months off, which alas is not the case! But as the coffee flowed and the creativity flowed more, that was it – we became business partners!

Over the last few frantic weeks we have been designing, planning and dreaming of what this can truly turn into. Our WhatsApp usage is at a record high!

Since then we have given birth to a beautiful baby Cafe right in the heart of Herne Bay. Situated in the stunning Beach Creative building, TOAST will open Easter Sunday to the public for a soft launch. It will offer simple but high quality food, gorgeous snacks and excellent coffee. Through local collaborations we will bring you the best the area has to offer. Little Pep will be based at the cafe, offering juices and smoothies on sight as well as consultations for juice plans.

Lots more to follow on the cafe, but raise a glass to TOAST next time you can!

So in a blast that’s my news! I couldn’t be happier at this moment. Times have been tough for me over the last few years, and I am determined to live my life to its fullest. My 2 guardian angels really have my back and inspire me daily to be a better me. With all of your love and support, it’s going to be a breeze.

Off for a lie down, I’ve just scared myself writing it all down!

Speak soon

Al xx

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New Year, New Me?

Hey you lovely lot, hope you all had a peaceful and fun break? Mine was hectic and it flew by like a whirlwind- but a lot of fun & frolics were had by all! And now I cannot wait to bring you up to date!

Christmas was a quiet affair this year. I decided in December to not party quite as hard as normal. For those who do not know me, December is usually a round of drinks, dinners and more drinks. Sounds fun, and mostly it was, but I am trying to improve my overall health and also lose some weight. Hitting 42 made me want to ‘not be halfway’ as someone kindly put it to me…. and also because I simply did not have the time or the energy.

I lead a busy work life, with a responsibility for an amazing group of people. The Industry I work in has gone through the mill a little bit recently- so conditions are tough. This situation has been going on for a few years now, with no end in sight. People are under the most pressure they ever have been, and stress levels are high. So one of our busiest times of the working year is December. Hence why I needed all of my energy!

This year seemed tougher than ever for me. December was like walking through mud – very heavy going. But why? I was fitter than ever, sleeping well & not constantly hungover! I am so happy in my new home and I have made amazing friends here. So by the time I staggered to Christmas I was fed up. Then the penny finally dropped.

I am someone who needs to feel valued and as if I am contributing something. Sometimes doors shut, and stay stuck. As much as I enjoy working with my team, I no longer enjoyed my actual job. I am no longer adding anything. For the last 7 months for a multitude of reasons, I have just got in the way. As sad as that is, that’s just life. Things naturally come to an end sometimes. As someone who is very astute to the vibe around me, I usually figure out it’s time for a change before anyone else realises!

So with a heavy heart I have quit my current job. I’m just getting in the way. I’m not attuned to that role anymore, & my brain needs some time to reset. I need a new challenge!

As those who know me and follow me on Instagram I have bought a beautiful bungalow near me in Tankerton, Whitstable to refurbish and turn into a high end holiday let. All the mod cons, and also tailored to the holiday or mini break you want. So for the next few weeks that’s where my focus will be. After that, we shall see. After 22 years in Insurance I guess I’m not yet done completely- but it won’t be anything like my current job. Excited puts it mildly. Terrified is also a way to describe it, but nervous excitement is the main feels.

Thanks for all your kind messages, I am really blown away by everyone’s thoughts and wishes. But as my Dad always told me, you only live once, make the bloody most of it!

I’ll sign off for anow as I need to sleep, but make sure you all have a great weekend, & lots more to follow!

Axx

Kyoto – a step back in time…

Kind and beautiful Kyoto…

Konichiwa all. Morning. I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop in Kyoto train station awaiting my bullet train back to Tokyo. I’m feeling a bit emotional to be honest. Let me explain why.

I was here in Japan on business. The last week was spent at a conference in Tokyo. That was great fun, but so exhausting. Normally on these business trips (and the first week was no exception) we go from airport to hotel, to meetings to dinner and to sleep. A bit like the song – Eat, sleep, network, repeat. Or something along those lines… (see the tired eyes below)

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Japan is a country I have longed to visit, but for one reason or another it hasn’t quite happened. So  as I am here for 11 days on business I decided to escape for the weekend to the old Capital of Japan – Kyoto.

Friday I left the amazing Capitol Tokyu hotel (who kindly kept my suitcase for me until I get back to Tokyo – that’s not a big thing here) with my wekekend bag, my matcha latte and my guide book. I hopped on the Subway (so easy, all lines are colour coded like the UK) and headed to Tokyo station to catch the Shakinsesen (bullet train). Kyoto is 536 miles away, and the train covers that in 2 hours and ten minutes. I treated myself to a green ticket (first class here) as it was only £20 more! Total return – £165.

Embarking the train was an experience – the crew bowed to me, and escorted me to my seat (Network Rail & all UK train companies take note).  The seats are huge. They recline, and have footrests. I laid back, put my feet up, and thought of Kyoto.  Until we sped up. Then I was not so comfortable. It was a little weird to begin with – a kinda out of body weird. However, after the initial stages of panic, it all became quite a pleasant experience! If you ever get the train, sit on the right to see Mount Fuji. What a delight, even on a grey day.

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Mount Fiji – stunning!

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Before I knew it we had arrived. I’m staying at the Westin Kyoto, as they offer free shuttle buses & Japanese style accommodations (Ryokans). I’m not brave enough on my own to go fully local! Many Ryokan owners do not speak any English, and although they provide traditional breakfast and dinner each day, I want to explore more. This option gives me the best of both worlds.

My room was beautiful- a traditional layout with low seating and a plunge cedar wood bath. Just walking into the room made me feel calm and serene. Japanese culture is one of respect, calmness and happiness- something I really wish we could do more.

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Despite the rain I decided to take a walk. Due to the rain not much was open, but I found somewhere to sit and stare at a temple whilst sipping some tea. A pure moment after the weeks work excursions!

Tired and hungry I headed back via the sushi counter (see the piccie below). I could literally eat my body weight in the stuff (currently quite large). As I headed to my room, my futon had been made up for me and I fell asleep in seconds – first time this week!

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However, my slumber didn’t last long – I was woken by a dripping noise on my futon. I had a leaky roof. Not what you need at that time of the night. So after a call to reception, a lot of apologising I was moved to the normal part of the hotel. Gutted to say the least! Even more gutted when I was told the hotel was fully booked the rest of the weekend and I needed to move hotels. However, the Regency Hyatt was an amazing alternative! Well worth the price. So welcoming and beautiful. Rooms were clean, comfy, and with a huge walk in shower certainly washed away the aches and pains from the sightseeing- over 22km in 2 days was tiring!

Saturday morning (after moving hotels) It was time to see the old Japan. Via various shrines and temples I headed on foot to Gion, renowned for its traditional way of life. With its miriad of little lanes, full of wonderful Japanese style shops and restaurants it was truly breathtaking – I felt like I had walked into another world, or jumped back in time. After some perusing I stopped for lunch in a traditional restaurant serving a set menu (called Teisoko). Only 4 tables, very serene and calm. A break from the world outside with its bustling and winding streets. My beautiful lunch of fish, sushi, vegetables, pickles, rice made me human again. Followed by a wonderful ice cream from red beans. Delicious! Ready for the afternoon! As I left, I was so lucky to catch a glimpse of 2 beautiful Geisha girls scurrying along the street to their next appointment – a rare and beautiful sight which left me mesmerised and brimming with joy.

 

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I spent the afternoon meandering around Downtown Kyoto – not forgetting the sensory overload that is the food market. Wow. Small alleyways laden with produce – from fish of ALL kinds, to vegtables, noodles to rice, spices to teas the place is a MUST for anyone visitors Kyoto. Full of bargains, I only wish I could bring it all home! Instead I settled for squid on a stick, and a cucumber on a stick to munch on as I browsed. Both delicious as you can see (suprisingly!).

To my delight I found a tea shop. Here I bought some wonderful teas which are roasted gently in house on traditional and old roasters then mixed to make a perfect blend. The owner didn’t speak a word of English, but he ushered me to a seat to try 4 types – kind of a try before you buy gig. Needless to say I left with 2 kinds, and a very big smile.

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Downtown Kyoto is a mix of Western chain stores and small coffee bars, cake shops, bars and restaurants. Totally fabulous. I spent hours here trying the local delights – mainly all delicious (avoid the omelette and blue tofu though). Sake sampled I wandered back a little hazey to my hotel, bath and bed exhausted but buzzing from the day..

Sunday – I woke up feeling the effects of the day before.  My legs were sore, but it was time to grab breakfast and head to the Temple (it is Sunday). And if you are going to visit any Temple make it a Golden One! Kita-Ku (golden pavilion) is a UNESCO world heritage sight, and deservedly so. A truly beautiful area of natural beauty – with the most amazing golden temple.  I didn’t expect it to be so shiny! I sat up on a hill just taking it all in – the vibe was so peaceful despite the crowds. People flock in their thousands to visit here and I can totally see why. I can’t describe how it made me feel, I guess the best phrase is ‘at peace’. Not something I experience very much it has to be said.

After a quick visit to the Imperial Palace (don’t bother) I headed to Fushimi Ku. Yes, another temple and shrine – but one of architectural brilliance. Time out describes it as “unmissable  ”

First – lunch. I stumbled off the train into a ramen shop. It what a hidden gem. The staff and chef were so friendly as I watched them cook everything freshly for its 10 customers (maximum capacity). I was gobsmacked to see gluten free fried chicken by using a little rice flour to hold the marinade, keeping it juicy and crisp. This led to a mini cookery lesson from the larger than life chef – and a plate devoured by moi. Along with a bowl of ramen (rice noodles) I was so gluttonous I had to leave before I burst!

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Off I rolled to the shrine itself. Like all places in Japan despite the crowds, everyone is polite and calm. Maybe it’s all the temples and good vibes! Let’s just say Time Out were not wrong. What a marvel. I wandered along the pathways through the beams, marvelling at the sheer brilliance of it all. Photos do not do it justice at all, but hopefully you get a sense of how amazing it is here.

My legs and feet told my brain it was time to head back to rest a little, so off I went. Always good to listen to the mind and body when they agree! Snooze complete I headed to dinner. I decided to treat myself at Touzan – the stunning restaurant in the Hyatt. It was a delight. Small, perfect portions (after ramen and fried chicken I wasn’t starving!) of dreamy sushi, figs in miso, and Wagyu beef all washed down with a super sake, amd a matcha ice cream to end.

Bedtime called, signalling the end of my Kyoto weekender. It was a certainly a special one – brain button reset, ready to head back to the madness of Tokyo for my last 48 hours in Japan to work and play hard. And what an amazing few days it was… next instalment to follow!

Axx