Having been to Las Vegas twice now and experienced it in two completely different ways I feel confident saying Vegas really does have it all! Here are 10 things you can do in Vegas that don’t involve gambling.
A kiwi in London's travels and adventures
Having been to Las Vegas twice now and experienced it in two completely different ways I feel confident saying Vegas really does have it all! Here are 10 things you can do in Vegas that don’t involve gambling.
San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the States and I can’t wait go back one day to see even more. I visited as part of a two week Contiki trip back in 2010 and I only just scraped the surface of this fantastic city. Here are the top 10 things to do in San Francisco.
This months travel link up is all about our greatest adventures, I have been very lucky over the past 8 years to experience all sorts of adventures since I left my home in New Zealand.
I lived on the beautiful island of Koh Samui in Thailand for a year, travelled throughout South East Asia, moved to the other side of the world, backpacked around Europe (more than once), got married and now I am planning my biggest adventure of all, a year long adventure around the world.
But one particular adventure sticks out as the greatest – my adventures getting to London and my first year here where I visited 10 countries and got up to all sorts of crazy things that 24 year olds get up to.
I am continuing the View from the top New York edition with one of my favourite things I did whilst in New York for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, the Highline.
The Highline is a simple concept, it is an old disused railway that has been turned into a useable urban space. There are gardens, street art and most importantly spectacular views of New York City.
We entered the Highline on W23rd Street and straight away I was impressed how the space had been used. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, through to Chelsea. Two of the coolest neighbourhoods in New York.
Getting above it all and seeing great views from the top is one of my favourite things to do in a new city, I love to get incredible views over places and I started this little series on my blog over a year ago showing all of the wonderful views I have seen from around the world. View from the top is now back after a little hiatus with a New York edition. View from the top of the Rockafella Centre was one of the most incredible and iconic views I’ve ever seen.
I spent three days in Brooklyn during my two week stay in New York and I fell in love with it. I started my Brooklyn love affair by walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which was one off my bucket list. Walking the bridge was almost like being in a battle because it was super busy. It was filled with tourists, selfie sticks, cyclists and angry New Yorkers so it was pretty hard to get the perfect photo but try we did.
Brunch is my new favourite thing so I made it my mission on my recent trip to NYC to get to the best brunch in New York. I had been trawling instagram for months leading up to my trip and also got some recommendations so I had a list before I even arrived. Here are the best four brunches plus a couple of great coffee stops along the way.
The first best brunch I had in New York was at The Butchers Daughter. This was recommend to me by a friend and I literally stumbled across it on my first day in NYC. They describe themselves as a “bright, bleached-wood outpost offering vegetarian (mostly vegan) fare & juices in a relaxed space”. We sat at a bar that overlooked the street in the trendy area of Nolita near Soho and perused the super yummy and very healthy menu.
I went for a coconut yoghurt parfait which was coconut yoghurt layered with fresh fruit and coconut goji berry granola. It was basally the freshest fruit I had my entire stay with a gooey coconut yoghurt and granola. It was so yummy and kick started me for my first day in NYC. In typical boy fashion Dan went for Farm eggs and toast soldiers. Both of these breakfast dishes cost $10USD which I found to be really reasonable.
The second best brunch in New York was at the Aussie cafe called Two Hands also located in Nolita. They describe themselves as “Bright & airy cafe with juices & espresso drinks plus light fare like pastries, salads & sandwiches”. When we arrived there was a queue which is a good and bad thing – good meaning that it is popular, bad because I hate queuing! But the dashing Aussie chap working that day took my name down and said it wouldn’t be long. After 15 minutes we sat down in the cute and cosy cafe and looked over the brunch menu. It was everything I wanted it to be!
I went for the classic ‘avo toast’ with poached egg and ricotta cheese to top it off as a little extra. It was delicious, Aussie’s definitely do brunch well, I’ll give them that. The coffee was also on point, I ordered a flat white and it was pretty perfect.
My friend went for the corn fritters and I had total food envy! Check out this stack.
Dan went for the classic man brunch in New York – Bacon and Egg roll.
The coffee was amazing, anywhere that has an actual flat white (not a latte) on the menu knows how to do it right and it’s so pretty.
The actual cafe was light, decorated with fluffy clouds and light and most importantly not too busy, just comfortable. This cafe has a huge following on social media and it totally lived up to the hype. I can highly recommend if you are in New York.
I found this cafe via instagram and so have 70,000 other people so they are kind of a big deal! We chose to visit the Jack’s Wife Freda in the West Village as the one in Soho is pretty much impossible to get into but I’m sure with good reason. Maybe we had hyped it up too much or maybe they just take the most amazing photos but we were a little underwhelmed by our brunch. I know I’ve included it in in ‘the best brunches in New York’ because I feel it does fall into this category.
Myself and two of my friends ordered the eggs benedict because you know that’s what kiwis do but Dan opted for a burger and chips. I can tell you now that Dan came out the winner.
My “Eggs benny” consisted of 2 poached eggs over potato latkes, smoked salmon and beet hollandaise. I switched my salmon for avocado, when it came out it was pretty but it was so small! Dan was well chuffed with his burger.
The actual cafe was styled like a traditional diner but with class, I loved the marble bar at the front of the cafe and my hot chocolate was on point. Jess, my graphic designer friend also stated that it was a designers dream menu.
I have saved the best brunch in New York until last, this was without doubt the one of the best brunches I had during my two week stay in New York. I spotted Egg Shop whilst sitting at The Butcher’s Daughter, it is directly across the road and there was a lot of interesting characters coming and going so I was intrigued.
Like everywhere in New York there was no bookings and a long queue, so we put our names down and popped around the corner for a coffee at Happy Bones. The actual cafe is quite small so only seats around 20 people, the kitchen is on full show so you can see the chefs in action whipping up eggs in various dishes.
I went here on New Years Eve for brunch and bubbles with some friends. The menu was really varied and I struggled to order as everything looked so good! I opted for ‘Custom Egg and Cheese’ which consisted of Rye Bread, poached egg, avocado, bacon and cheese with a side of crunchy hash browns. It was basically like my dream breakfast, I paired it with a glass of Cava because it was New Years Eve after all.
My husband Dan was able to order a beer with his brunch so he was totally in his element, he went for the Egg Shop B.E.C which was basically an egg, bacon and roll with a side of fried chicken.
My friends opted for a stuff pepper with egg and bacon with a side of hash browns as well.
The food was phenomenal and it was without doubt the best meal/brunch I had in New York, the service was brilliant, the menu was amazing and I rate it a 10/10.
I’m going to add a few of my favourite coffee spots in New York as well because I drink coffee now (shock horror) and I have total appreciation for good coffee now and we all know with every good brunch there is good coffee. So here are my favourites.
Happy Bones is a minimalist coffee shop specializing in flat whites (woo hoo). I’d been following them on instagram for ever so I was really pleased to get in their and enjoy their coffee and hot chocolate.
Toby’s Estate is one my friend Jess discovered via instagram as well, we found their cafe located in the Flatiron District one day whilst strolling around the city. The actual cafe was beautiful and the cups were super cute as well.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the best brunches in New York and that you can eat and drink at these places soon!
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During my recent visit to New York we got a booklet filled with activities and attractions from CityPASS to use. We managed to visit most of the attractions that are provided in the CityPASS booklet. Here is what we saw, did and enjoyed!
The CityPASS is a simple concept, you are given a booklet with vouchers which you exchange for tickets at these attractions:
If you visit all of these attractions with the CityPASS rather than purchase the tickets individually you save yourself $83USD which is a sizeable chuck of cash between two people or even more if you are a family.
‘The MET’ as it is more commonly known was our first stop with the CityPASS, I had visited the MET before but I saw much more this time as I had more time. As soon as you climb the grand stairs and enter the busy atrium you are graced with these incredible stairs.
We found the room that possessed all of the Monet’s and Van Gogh’s as that is what I was most looking forward to. There is something very special about admiring these paintings that I learnt about in my art history lessons back in school.
This was one of the highlights of my New York trip as nothing beats the iconic view you receive once you are at the top. The actual getting up there process was a little confusing to begin with as it was just so busy there but after a few queues and asking several staff members we were able to exchange our CityPASS at a kiosk and book a timed slot in 2 hours time to get to the top of the Rock.
We arrived during our 10 minute slotted entry time and got in a lift swiftly that took us up to the viewing area. There are three separate areas but we went straight up to the top as it offers the best views without the glass wall!
It was a crisp, cool day in NYC but nothing could deter that view. The classic view over Central Park along with the biggest and iconic building in London on the other side (The Empire State) it was such an awesome experience being up there.
Like all of the other tourist attractions in New York this one was no different…there was a massive queue! We attempted it twice before finally getting on the boat and out to Liberty Island but I must admit once we got there all of the queuing in the cold made it worth it. Seeing Lady Liberty standing in front me of was a surreal experience.
We spent about an hour on Liberty Island, we read up about the history and circled the tiny island getting some photos along the way. There was plenty of people on the island but it wasn’t busy enough that you couldn’t enjoy it. You can also go to Ellis Island as part of the CityPASS to learn about immigration from the past but we skipped it as it was a freezing cold day. The view on the ferry back to Manhattan was also incredible, it was shadowed in fog as we came back in.
I was really excited to go here as I love the Night at the Museum films but again due to queueing and major overcrowding this was a pretty unpleasant experience. We really struggled to see the exhibits as the museum had far too many people in it. Everyone was pushing and shoving and we ended up going after an hour because it was just too busy. This was no fault of CityPASS rather the museum.
We did manage to see a few of the mammals from America and the dinosaur section which I was really impressed with. The staff here were the most organised of all the attractions and this was the least queueing we did while using the CityPASS.
This was the queue for people that didn’t have a CityPASS! Apparently it was 1 hour and 45 minutes long (in the rain) as opposed to our 25 minutes (undercover). CityPASS for the win with this attraction!
One of the great things about the CityPASS Empire State Building experience is that you can visit during the day AND in the evening, yes you can visit twice in one day! I opted just for a visit at night though. Seeing the Big Apple all lit up late at night was wonderful. It was surprisingly calm up there and it was so nice to be able to look down on one of the craziest cities in the world and just take it all in.
Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the 9/11 Memorial Museum this time, I had hoped to but I just ran out of time but from all accounts and reviews I read it is a must see.
The CityPASS in theory is a fantastic idea if you want to see all of the best New York attractions but we did have to spend many hours queuing and I wasn’t expecting that. Most attractions make you queue to exchange your CityPASS for a ticket and then queue again to enter the attraction with a ticket. I understand this is no fault of CityPASS rather the actual attraction but it was still pretty frustrating at times especially because most attractions were shambolic and so disorganised with either ill-informed staff or lack of staff. I was in New York during the holiday season so this most definitely contributed to the huge amount of tourists as well.
I would still recommend the CityPASS if you are going to visit all of these attractions as the cost is well worth it. It was easy to use, you can either get it sent to you or pick up at one of the attractions after purchasing online or you can pick it up from many locations in New York. It certainly made us get out there and enjoy all of these attractions.
Disclaimer: I was provided with 2 New York CityPASS booklets. Thank you to CityPASS for this, we loved seeing all of these great attractions in New York.
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My recent holiday to New York City was one of the best yet, being able to spend two whole weeks in a city was something new for me but it allowed me to actually see it properly, get my bearings, hit up some local spots and just enjoy it at a good pace.
We got asked to house sit for friends who are currently living in the East Village of New York (how cool is that?) over Christmas and New Year while they were back in the U.K. I had never been to the East Village before but I was so happy to be staying there as it was less crazy than Uptown. All the brunch spots on my list were very close by and there weren’t loads of people so in not too many words here is what my two weeks in New York looked like.
We kicked it off with brunch at The Butchers Daughter
Followed by sunset at Battery Park.
Selfies under the iconic Brooklyn Bridge
Basketball game at the incredible Madison Square Garden to see New York Knicks play Orlando Magic. The atmosphere was electric!
Our friends arrived and we kept going with the brunches at Two Hands, an Aussie cafe. We popped around the corner to Happy Bones which is a little coffee shop that I have been following on instagram for ever. Now that I drink it, I have total appreciation for good coffee.
We went to The MET. So many rooms full of some of the worlds best art, new and old. Nothing beats seeing a Monet and Van Gogh up close and personal, followed by the lads eating hot dogs (this was a regular occurrence).
We walked the Highline which starts in Chelsea and traverses the Meat Packing District. This was one of the highlights of the trip,; a really simple idea of turning a disused railway into a walkway/urban jungle in an uber cool part of town. Luckily we got there just in time for a beautiful New York sunset.
Followed by a stroll around the Meat Packing District.
Christmas Day was like a dream; ice skating in Central Park in 22 degrees followed by a feast of ham, chicken, veggies, sticky toffee pudding and my contribution a New Zealand pavlova.
We walked the Brooklyn Bridge (one ticked off the bucket list) and explored Williamsburg on Boxing Day, sipping beer at the famous Brooklyn Brewery. Night fell and we hit up a roof top bar to get exceptional views of the NYC lights.
More sport – we made our way out to New Jersey to see an American Football match. The New York Jets vs The New England Patriots (the current Superbowl champions) was an exciting game to go to. The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve experienced before. There was screaming, shouting, waving of flannels, attitude and rivalry all in the name of NFL. We grabbed our beers, cheese fries and hot dogs and settled in for an absolutely epic game of Football.
We got up the ‘Top of the Rock’ for an insane view over Manhatten and battled the selfie sticks to get the perfect photo.
After we had evening at the Renaissance Hotel bar overlooking Times Square. It was great to witness the madness from above in a comfy chair with a cocktail in my hand.
We popped by Grand Central Station to see what all the fuss was about and we weren’t disappointed. It was so beautiful.
Then had a very late brunch at instagram famous Jack’s Wife Freda.
We marvelled at the beautiful homes in Greenwich in the West Village and laughed at the Sex and the City fans lining up to have their Carrie moment.
We froze our butts off at Liberty Island to see one of the most famous statues in the world – Lady Liberty and literally bumped into some friends on the boat over! Such a small world.
We ate at super cool Egg Shop and had the best brunch of NYC (in my opinion).
We rung in the New Year after way too many frozen margaritas and some questionable Mexican cuisine in some pretty sweet glasses.
Finally, we had to say goodbye to our new favourite city.
I have so much to share on this amazing trip and I wish I could do it all over again, can I move to New York now?
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I’m back in the travel link up! I have taken a hiatus, not for any reason other than I’ve been a bit lazy! But I’m back and here to share how I celebrate Christmas. Having spent Christmas day in Thailand, Egypt, Tanzania, Jersey and Germany it’s safe to say I like to travel and be somewhere exotic for it. Being an expat around Christmas is always a bit odd, everyone is busy buying gifts for family, thinking of what their Christmas dinner is going to be and heading off to celebrate with their families. But I’ve never been much of a conformist so I like to spend my Christmas’s all over the world.
Christmas in Thailand
I first left home in Auckland in 2007 and spent a year abroad in Thailand teaching at a British school, this is where I experienced my first Christmas away and since then I haven’t really looked back. It was like no Christmas I’ve ever experienced and probably won’t ever again, I partied all night and well into the morning at a Full Moon Party! If you have never been to a full moon party I’ll sum it up in a few words and phrases
and one hell of a hangover in a hammock
Christmas in Egypt
Walking like an Egyptian on Christmas day in Luxor was such a fun experience, I feel so lucky to have travelled through Egypt before all the recent unrest as it is such a fantastic country filled with more history than you can imagine. How many people can say they visited Tutankhamen’s tomb on Christmas Day? Well I can and I’m pretty proud of that. I spent Christmas Day walking around the Valley of the Kings before laying by the pool at a hotel on the banks of the Nile and having a big old party in the evening.
Christmas in Tanzania
Going on safari is amazing but being able to wake up on Christmas Day, step out of your tent (and avoid the buffalo poo) and look out to the Ngorongoro Crater. Breakfast was a simple toast and baked beans, we watched the sunrise over the crater but what followed was a game drive through a UNESCO world heritage site where we spotted rhino, lions, elephants and hyenas. After our game drive we headed back to camp where we celebrated Christmas with a big spit roast.
Christmas in Jersey
Jersey is a beautiful island just off the coast of France and it is where I spent Christmas one year with family. There is a Christmas tradition on Jersey and that is you jump off the pier into the freezing cold water, I didn’t partake but I did watch all the crazies doing it. After the pier jumping it was straight to the hot tub to enjoy bubbles and in Dan’s case a cigar. Christmas was pretty traditional that year, a big old turkey, Christmas hats and lots of wine.
Christmas in Germany
Since moving to London I’ve always wanted to visit the German Christmas markets and they did not disappoint. I visited Cologne first before spending Christmas Day in Hamburg with friends. Christmas Day was spent very hungover but we still managed to get into the spirit by playing games, drinking, eating and exchanging gifts with the gift swap game. The Germans sure do know how to celebrate Christmas, the gluwein, sausages and silly music made it a memorable Christmas.
Christmas in New York
This year I get to spend Christmas in New York, how lucky can one girl be? We have been asked to house sit an apartment in Manhattan for two whole weeks and I literally cannot wait! Isn’t it every kids dream to go to New York at Christmas after seeing Home Alone 2? There are so many Christmas movies set in New York and I intend to visit every single Christmas related thing whilst I am there. Ice skating in Central Park, the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre, shopping, shopping and more shopping. If you have any New York Christmas related activities send them my way!
I’ll let you in on a little secret, next year I get to spend Christmas back home in New Zealand and I literally can’t wait to have a kiwi Christmas!
Where is the best place you have celebrated Christmas?
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Being stuck in London during my six week summer holiday is a bummer but it’s got me thinking about all of the great places I have been and my favourite destinations I have visited during my holidays, being a teacher I get 13 weeks a year (don’t get too jealous) so here are my favourite destinations.
Dan and I visited Iceland back in 2012, it was his second visit. He raved about it to me so it had a lot to live up to and it did! We had such an amazing trip there we are hopefully going back again next year. Iceland is a really unique destination, it has so much to offer and we just loved it. I especially enjoyed doing a tour of Southern Iceland as well as the famous Golden Circle trip.
Reykjavik is the coolest capital city in the world, we made sure to be there on the weekend because we heard the Icelandic’s sure know how to party and they didn’t disappoint. We bar hopped the night away and had an absolute blast. We saw countless water falls, geysers, glaciers, swam in the blue lagoon and saw giant volcanoes. It reminded me a lot of New Zealand but on a much bigger scale. If you haven’t been yet, you’ve got to go!
Ever since I moved to the U.K I was dying to go to Italy, it was the ultimate exotic destination for me and being a huge fan of Italian food it was a must do destination. Dan and I visited Italy during our first summer together, we went to Rome and fell completely in love with it. The sights, the food, the people and the culture was everything I was expecting and more. We have returned to Italy twice since then to go to Venice, Verona, Florence and Cinque Terre. All of these destinations were beyond expectation and I just love Italy. The next stops in Italy are Amalfi and the Lakes.
I have visited the States twice and both times I had a blast, even though I have only scratched the surface I found out quickly that this country is so varied. Every place I visited was so different from the next. From the plastic fantastic L.A to the beautiful landscapes of Yosemite to the laid back vibe of San Fran I just loved it. American’s are also some of the friendliest people I’ve ever come across.
I know I am slightly biased as this is my home country but NZ is pretty awesome. From the beautiful beaches in the North Island to the rugged landscapes in the south, New Zealand has it all. The people (or lack of), the laid back lifestyle, the food and the wine are what makes New Zealand so great. I’ve been back to New Zealand twice in the last five years and I can’t wait to back again.
I was very lucky to go to the Maldives for my honeymoon last year and it was one of the most unique destinations I have ever visited. It is of course beautiful, the crystal clear waters that lapped against my over water bungalow was some of the clearest water I have ever seen. The snorkelling was beyond crazy, it was another world down there, sharks, turtles, sting rays, manta rays and hundreds of fish. The resort we stayed at was eco-friendly and had some of the friendliest staff from all over the world and the best buffet I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a dull moment in the Maldives and it is a destination I plan to revisit again because it is truly special.
I went to Croatia for three weeks a couple of years ago and had an absolute blast. Along with doing a weeks sailing trip with Med Sailors I also spent time in the capital Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik and the stunning Plitvice Lakes. The Croatians were friendly, very welcoming and a little bonus is that it is still kind of cheap there. The islands I visited were laid back and the beaches were to die for. I have no doubt I will go back to Croatia as there is so much more to see.
Last but by no means least of my favourite destinations is the wonderful Egypt. I visited Egypt back in 2010 pre uprising and I found it to be a wonderful place. Once out of the craziness of Cairo it was calm, full of lovely people and had an insane amount of things to see. It was difficult to watch what happened to Egypt mere months later but I feel very lucky I got to visit all of its wonderful destinations and learn about it’s incredible history while it was still safe. I did a two week tour of Egypt with GoBus taking in Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Dahab during the Christmas and New Year period. Our guide was the most knowledgable (and fun) guide I had ever encountered and we had an absolute blast learning about all of the history. It is such a beautiful place and I hope more people get the chance to visit this totally unique destination.
I did return to Egypt a couple of years later as a stop off en route to Kenya. Things weren’t great around this time so we hired a driver to take us to the pyramids and back to the hotel. While we were there the riots in Tahir Square were happening but I can tell you we were the only people who were visiting the pyramids that day. It was great for us but also very sad to see this incredible wonder of the world empty. Kelly has written a fantastic post telling you 10 reasons why you need to visit Egypt.
So there you have my favourite destinations from around the globe.
What are your favourites?
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My friend and fellow blogger Cara from Britventures came with me to The Pickle Factory which is a converted warehouse in Tower Hamlets. Upon arrival we were greeted with refreshing drinks and some amazing American food and we were also given a sweet Samsung Galaxy S6 to try out for the afternoon along with £10 of Skype credit for contacting loved ones back home.
Being an iPhone girl I was very curious to see how it differs. The first thing I noticed was just how good the camera was, the pictures were crystal clear, even on the front camera. Even though I have never used a Samsung before it was pretty straight forward and really user friendly.
To start we ate tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa before downing some pimms in the sunshine and headed straight for the beer pong table. Beer pong is a great American drinking game and me and Cara played the first game, I lost 🙁 but it was a lot of fun.
The great American food kept coming, we tucked into macaroni cheese, burgers and drank beers in the sunshine whilst meeting fellow bloggers and playing around with the Samsung Galaxy 6. Each photo we uploaded to social media with the hashtag #july4thwiththree was then instantly sent to a photo booth machine and printed out. There were prizes for the best photo and we were doing our best to get enough entries in to get our hands on a Samsung Tablet.
Once all the bloggers had arrived and we were all fed, we had a huge game of flip cup which was so much fun! If you don’t know what flip cup is here is the low down.
1. Split into two teams
2.Fill cups up with beer
3.First person starts drinking and once finished has to balance the cup on the side of the table and flip it over
4.Carry on down the line until all cups have been flipped
It was a hilarious game that almost everyone got involved it.
In true American fashion we had milk and cookies (so cute) and warm apple pie for dessert. The presentation of all of the food and beverages was totally pinterest worthy. Look at those cute little bottles and straws.
To finish the 4th of July celebrations we were given sparkles to play around with. Who doesn’t love a sparkler snap?
I had so much fun at July 4th with Three Mobile and really enjoyed trying out their new Samsung Galaxy handset. As you can see the quality of the pictures is top notch and as I mentioned before super easy to use.This event was sponsored by Three and their #makeitright campaign which is all about how Three are taking a stand in the mobile industry which you can find out about here.
All of the device information can also be found here.
This place has to be seen to be believed! Going to the Grand Canyon was always a dream of mine and as part of a Contiki tour around America I was lucky enough to visit for a couple of days back in 2010. As we actually stayed at the Grand Canyon I was fortunate to spend a good chunk of time here instead of just doing a day trip.
|Me checking our the view from the top|
The first moment I laid eyes on the Grand Canyon I was stunned, there are no words to describe a massive hole in the ground other than breathtaking. It was so much bigger than you can imagine, as far as the eye can see.
So after seeing it, hiking it and watching the sun set over it I felt like I had really seen the Grand Canyon and nothing can mistake this view from the top. You can read more about my trip to the Grand Canyon here
America: Seeing the sunset over the Grand Canyon
Just going to the Grand Canyon was a dream come true but to stay there, trek it the following day and then watch the sunset over it was such an incredible experience that I will never forget. The Grand Canyon can’t really be described in words, it is so big, so vast, so deep and goes on forever. The evening our group watched the sunset was a really calming time. We all just sat around, took a few pictures but then sat back and enjoyed the view. I do love a good sunset but this one literally takes the cake and it was the ultimate pinch me moment.
Europe: Seeing the big sights – Colosseum, Eiffel Tower and Big Ben
You have seen these buildings hundreds of times before on postcards, in magazines, on TV, in films and in other peoples photos but I still got that pinch me feeling when I saw these three incredibly iconic buildings standing right in front of me. No feeling will ever compare to me seeing these, it was awe, surprise, love and a feeling of total “I can’t believe I’m here!”. Even after living in London for four years I still get all giddy when I see Big Ben (or Benny as I like to call him/it). Going to Rome and seeing the Colosseum was always a dream and it totally lived up to expectations, I loved walking around it, getting a million photos and just sitting there staring at it while the world passed me by. One of my favourite moments whilst travelling was on an evening in Paris, I had just finished up a 4 week Europe holiday with friends and I ended it in Paris on my own. I took a stroll to the Eiffel Tower and sat to watch the light show at midnight. Although I was alone there was something pretty special about that moment and it is one I won’t ever forget and also the perfect way to end my first European summer.
|Can you tell how excited I am?|
Africa – Seeing Lions
If you have been on safari you know just how important it is to see a lion. Everyone is on the look out for one, you are constantly searching the horizon for a tail swishing or you’re listening for a roar so when you do finally see one you want to be the first jeep there with the best view. This happened early one morning in the Serengeti. We were first ‘on the scene’ to a kill right beside the road (thank you lionesses) where two females were eating, a hyena was hanging around before two more females joined and then even a leopard in the distance. Not only were we lucky enough to see lions being so active but to see them chase off one brave little hyena was also awesome, a total pinch me moment.
When I received this request there was so many stories running through my mind. From night boats in Thailand, night boat to Ireland, night train in Egypt (I am seeing a trend here and they all include sleeping pills and night transport).
|Night boat from Ko Tao to Surat Thani – Thailand|
Also those incredibly memorable for all the right reasons – the most insane hotel room with the comfiest bed in the world in Las Vegas, sleeping under the stars on Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island aka ‘The Beach’ or sleeping in the smallest room/cupboard on a yacht in the Adriatic sea somewhere in Croatia with the window open and staring out to the stars.
|Maya Bay on Phi Phi Island (aka ‘The Beach’) – Thailand|
But the most memorable nights sleep while travelling would have to be a night camping in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We only camped in the Serengeti for one night but one magical, scary, surreal night it was.
Between the cries from hyenas, growls from lions and swishing of elephants tails throughout the night (and full bladders as we were all too scared to get up in the night) it was magical. We all camped as close to the toilets as possible without realising that our lovely guide camped as close as possible to the camp fire (duh) and quite away from us, this didn’t dawn on us until bed time. There were no fences, nothing between us and some of the most dangerous creatures in the world but it was totally liberating.
The best thing for me was the star gazing though. I have never and probably never will see stars like I did that evening. I can’t even describe how many there were, how bright there were and how beautiful the sky looked that night. Going on safari was a real treat and something I have always dreamed of doing and I am pleased that it brought me my most memorable nights sleep while travelling.
Now as you may know I am getting married this year in August but this does not mean I won’t be travelling as much, I am just cutting down a little bit. We already have some trips booked for 2014 and loads of ideas.
In February we are going to Bath for a weekend with some friends. The boys are going to watch a rugby game and the girls are going to spend an afternoon at the thermal bath spas. I have been the Bath before but it is such a beautiful place I am actually really looking forward to going back and exploring again and hanging out in these beautiful pools.
In April we will be going to my favourite place in the whole world…home! I am going home for two weeks to enjoy some much needed family time and to show my other half what Auckland has to offer (ideas needed). On the way there we have a short stop in Singapore so after purchasing a travel book about this city for Christmas I can’t wait to go!
May is hen and stag do month, I am hoping to go to Paris Disneyland for mine because for some reason Dan doesn’t want to go with me! It would make the most perfect girls weekend and as I have been to Paris three times I would also like to take a trip to the Palace of Versailles for something a little bit different.
In June I would like to revisit Amsterdam. I have been there before but on my Europe jaunt three years ago, lets put it this way, I saw the inside of many bars and cafes and not a lot of museums! I really want to visit the Anne Frank Museum and Van Gogh Museum and enjoying some bike riding.
|Me in Amsterdam last time doing some clog shopping (Heineken in hand)|
In August I will be going to the wonderful Maldives on my honeymoon. I cannot give too much detail as I actually don’t know any details! Dan has booked the whole thing and is keeping it a surprise until we go. All I know is I get to go on a sea plane and that it is costing a lot! I’m sure it will be 12 days of bliss and much needed after wedding madness.
At the end of August, I will take a trip (if all goes to plan) with my parents and my new husband to Jersey in the Channel Islands to show them this gorgeous place with lots of history and hopefully it will be warm enough for some beach time.
My Mum turns the big 60 in September and on a Saturday too (how convenient) so we are still in the planning stages of where we will celebrate but my vote would be Rome. In September it will be less busy but still warm and it is my favourite city in the whole world. I love Rome and can’t rave about it enough. The walks, the food, the energy and atmosphere, I just love it!
My Dad will be hanging around a bit longer so I’m sure we will do some more trips within the UK. After too many failed attempts last year (that damn English weather) I will get to Cambridge this year! It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and give the punting a go! Stratford upon Avon is another destination I’m dying to get to, bring on the Shakespeare and York is another must do for me.
Those are all the plans I have got so far (how will I have time to plan a wedding I’m not sure?). There is still a holiday in October and Christmas and New year to plan but I would just love to go to New York or Miami around that time of year so watch this space! Some more Europe trips I would like to do if we can fit it in/afford it would be Porto in Portugal, the Baske country in Spain, Krakow in Poland and Tromso to see the Northern Lights as we missed them last year in Iceland. So many places but so much time to do it all as well.
|Wimbeldon Tennis Tournament – London|
|Las Vegas Strip – Nevada|
|Waya Island, Fiji|
|Waya Island, Fiji|
|Nile Aswan, Egypt|
|Venice Beach, California|
|Grand Canyon, Arizona|
|Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco|
|Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island – Thailand|
|Ko Tao, Thailand|
I know everything is bigger in the USA but it’s even bigger in Las Vegas. The hotels, the drinks, the food, the people, the money!!
We stayed at The Cosmopolitan which is one of the newer hotels on the Las Vegas strip, the hotel itself was impressive, grand but not over the top, stylish and a little bit chic. The room was spectacular, a balcony with an unbeatable view of the strip, a bath overlooking the strip, the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in with the softest pillows and the Eiffel Tower, what more could you ask for?
As this was my second visit to Las Vegas I knew what to expect but the last time I was in a big tour group with people that wanted to party hard (me being one of them), this time it was slightly different. Without someone to guide you along the way it is hard to choose what exactly to do in Las Vegas as there is just too much on offer. Which club? Which show? What hotels do you spend your time in? Where to eat and drink?
We felt so overwhelmed by Las Vegas (and by the heat at a stinking 40 degrees) that at times we were a bit lost. We did manage to see all the big hotels, spend plenty of time in the pool, attend a ‘day club’ which was full of posers and was so awkward we had to leave and drink plenty of alcoholic slushies!
I do love Las Vegas but next time I go (and I will go again!) I will be armed with more of a plan!
Have you been to Las Vegas?
Venice Beach never fails to impress me, the only comparison I could make is that it is just like Camden Market only on the beach. We enjoyed watching the local homeless banging on their buckets to make music and Elvis on rollerblades, it’s all very trivial but in small doses. It was a mission getting there from Hollywood though, 2 buses and 1 1/2 hrs later! We strolled along the board walk to Santa Monica pier, a major let down, as was Santa Monica town.
Universal Studios was awesome, as a huge movie buff it was so much fun for me. The only down side was the lining up, we got to go on all the rides except the Transformers that had a waiting time of 90 minutes. My favourite was Jurassic Park, it was so dated but getting soaked at the end made it very fun! The studio tour was pretty awesome too and I would recommend doing that first when you arrive.
Seeing the Hollywood Sign was a highlight, we paid a taxi driver $40 to take us there and back and he got us as close as possible as it is very elusive. It’s pretty impressive. He also gave us a little history lesson and showed us some celeb homes on the way up to the sign. Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are of course a must, just seeing how the other half live is fascinating and walking up and down the stretch of shops make sure to look out for celebs, they do hang around there. We parked up at a cafe called Farm in Beverley Hills and sat outside and watched the world go by (and a couple of celebrities). The food was of course big and tasty. Our favourite place to eat was an old style diner called Johnny Rockets, the breakfasts were delicious.
I still love L.A and know I will be back again….
We have 6 weeks, 4 countries, 6 cities and a whole lot of friendly faces to catch up with.
The first stop is L.A, I mainly based myself in Venice Beach on my last visit so this time I’m staying in Hollywood. Sunset Strip here I come!
The next stop is Las Vegas! I have been to Vegas before, I barely scratched the surface and it really is such an amazing place with so much to offer I could not pass up another few days there. The hotels, the pools, the rides, the shows!! We are staying at the newest hotel on the strip called the Cosmopolitan, it is right next to Bellagio.
Stop 3 is Fiji! We are staying on Waya Island which is part of the Yasawa Islands for 5 days of diving, snorkelling and relaxing. The Yasawa Islands feature some of the finest white sand beaches in Fiji. our resort boasts a beach on sunset-facing Likuliku Bay. Deep, white, soft sand graces the shoreline in front of a beautiful blue lagoon. Yes please!
Stop 4 is of course home, New Zealand. It would have been 2 1/2 years since I left so I am more than happy to return to the homeland. Although it will be winter, it will be so nice to see all my family and friends and spends some time back in Auckland.
Next stop in NZ is Queenstown, I myself have never ventured to the South Island, something I’m quite ashamed of. So this will be a chance to show Dan the mountains and do a bit of ‘extreme’ sports as others like to call it. Also, catching up with my mate Katie from London who has moved there.
The last and final stop on the round the world trip is Hong Kong. We have 4 days at an amazing hotel where hopefully I can catch up on my shopping, eat some good food and visit Disneyland.
It really is the holiday that just keeps giving! Bring it on 2 and half months to go and the countdown is on…..
The next day it was time to see New York. Stacey and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). It was gigantic, it was great seeing paintings I’d studied in Art History at school. To see a real Monet Gaugain and Picasso was pretty amazing. I had a leisurely walk through Central Park and then to Times Square to buy our broadway tickets for that evening.
The next day we did a Movie and TV tour, then onto Wall Street for pics with the bull. Possibly a highlight of New York was playing on the giant piano from Big, it was so much fun!
We all went to the Empire State building that evening, after waiting in line for an hour, we finally arrived at the top to spectacular panoramic views over the big apple. After that it was hot dogs and beer pong!
It all came to an end that night and it was time to say farewell to my lovely friend Stacey. Overall New York rocks and I didn’t even get to see half of it. Can’t wait to visit again soon!
That day we went on a city tour to see all of the sights including the Golden Gate Bridge. It was covered in mist at the time so the photo opportunities weren’t great but still amazing to see it so up close. That evening we went on a cruise on a catamaran for the sunset under the Golden Gate bridge. It was a lovely experience and a couple even got engaged on our boat which was lovely. It was such a nice way to spend the evening and I highly recommend it. That night we had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp a restaurant completely dedicated to Forrest Gump! It had memorabilia from the film and a menu that tied in very nicely with the film. Later that night we went to an Irish bar, there’s loads of them in San Fran!
The next day we went to the hip neighbourhood of Haight Ashbury. This is the town that bred hippies back in the day, it is still a very hip place with cool looking people everywhere. We then moved onto china town and that evening we had a night tour of Alcatraz which was brilliant! It is such an eerie place with so much history! It was so much fun being there at night as well.
The next day we were given the opportunity to go to a baseball game, baseball is not something I am interested in but it seemed like a fun thing to do whilst in the city. It was the Giants vs Cardinals, the atmosphere was great and it was fun chatting to the locals but by the end I still hadn’t picked up the rules!
The last night in San Fran was our last night with our tour group (sob), it was very sad to be saying goodbye to all these great people I’d met over the last two weeks and we had all become so close. We went to the Castro (gay district) for an Italian meal, then hit up a gay club for the evening. We danced the night away and said our farewells.
I cannot recommend enough the trip ‘L.A to the Bay’ from Contiki. It was brilliant and I couldn’t fault it!
Here are more details:
Contiki – L.A to the Bay
The following day we went to Yosemite National Park. It was a part of the trip I had really been looking forward to as this is such a famous park. It was the first time I had ever seen full on snow as well so it was extra exciting for me, it was so beautiful! It is one of those memories I will never forget!
We went to an amazing look out to get a fantastic view of the park and of a huge waterfall and it was the perfect spot for a bit of photo taking. We got back onto the bus and headed further into the park where I got to see deer and a coyote but unfortunately no bears. There were wonderful waterfalls and loads of walking paths to take. It is just such a nice, natural place to walk around and explore. All too soon it was time to leave the park, it was such a special place and hopefully one I can go back to one day and explore more.
That evening back at Bass Lake we went to the local bar for food and beers before getting ready to head to the next destination of San Francisco!