Proof that we all look stupid sometimes.

When you take as many photos as I do when I travel – some of them are bound to go wrong / be crap / look awful.

Sometimes it can just be near impossible to get all the right elements into place for the perfect snap, whether it be too much rain, wind or even laughter…

Here are a few of my favourite out-takes.

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This shot took a couple of times to take, but the end result (where we look normal) is nowhere near as good as these two. First the yawning… then the laughing at the yawning. It’s all fun in Hong Kong.

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The photo below is from The Great Ocean Road in Australia where, incase you hadn’t already guessed, it’s really windy. This is one of my favourie photos from our time in Australia for the simple reason that it’s utterly ridiculous and we both look like morons.

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And another shot from just down the road, looking just as windswept. I’m not sure what my hair is doing here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good…

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Bad lighting is something I’m usually pretty good at avoiding, but occasionally you can’t predict it. I took the photo below on the strike of midnight as we watched the fireworks in Sydney. We were so close the fireworks that the camera picked up on all the light and it messed up the shot.

I kind of love this photo more than any of the others though because of all the crazy colours, and for the very reason other people might have deleted the shot. It sums up the night for me and the magic view we had.

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Sometimes you can’t predict what’s going to happen when you take a photo. One minute you’re taking a nice photo and smiling, and the next you’re bricking it because Thailand is dangerous and everyone drives like a maniac. Luckily Pad was on hand to capture the change in emotion!

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Accidental zoom is always annoying. I took the photo below without realising the lens was slightly zoomed. The result? a headless boyfriend. Oops.

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Another example of never knowing what’s going to happen, here is Pad struggling with an umbrella on Hamilton Island in Australia. He’s handling it like a pro, as you can see.

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And finally, the last two photos – are fine examples of why having long hair is only ever a hassle!

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The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay – The best view in Vegas?

Whilst we were recently in Las Vegas, we were lucky enough to be invited to The Foundation Room at The Mandalay Bay Hotel for an evening of drinks and food. Ever since I first visited Las Vegas I had been desperate to visit a rooftop bar with a view, and The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay was just that.

The foundation room mandalay bay

We started the night in a private room just off the main bar and overlooking the more suburban side of the city. The whole decor of the place is magic, with authentic carved wooden sculptures from Asia, and beautiful wooden panels and columns.

You can see the private room where we ate in the photo below and you see just how gorgeous the atmosphere, lighting and decor is. It felt cosy and luxurious all at the same time – which is quite a hard balance to strike.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The menu consisted of various posh bar snacks, and we tried them all. There were crab cakes (which I couldn’t have because I’m allergic, but Pad proclaimed his love for them instantly), pork tacos, a fish salad, mini BLT sandwiches and these deep fried chicken meatballs with dipping sauce.

The food felt more or less asian inspired – and it was seriously delicious.

Oh and the cocktails. The many many cocktails. They were pretty special too.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

After our drinks and food, we made our way into the main bar and their famous outdoor terrace to enjoy more drinks and the amazing view. And passing through the bar, you get a taste of even more amazing decor too. The below sculpture was about twice as big as me, and absolutely breathtaking, it was so incredibly intricate and detailed. I could’ve stood and looked at it all night – but the cocktails were calling us to the bar so we dragged ourselves away.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

As you can see from the photos above and below, the view was epic. Without a doubt the best view in Las Vegas and unbelievable. You can literally see the entire strip from their terrace, and the lights glisten and sparkle, and it’s magical. If you’re looking for somewhere special to go whilst you’re in Vegas, this is the place. There’s no where quite like it.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

Pad couldn’t stop raving about the Old Fashioned cocktails (his all time favourite), whilst I moved onto wine, more cocktails and then Baileys to finish off the night. We sat in the bar for at least 4 hours after finishing our food, just to soak it all in, and it was perfect.

The bar is lively, yet atmospheric and friendly too. There were plenty of places to sit; from sofa and arm chairs to bar stools. It didn’t get over crowded the whole night, and we never had to queue too long at the bar either which was great. The bar had a great buzz, but one of sophistication – not manic or frazzled like you’d expect in a lively Vegas bar.

You know those nights you’d happily live again and again and again? This was one of those nights. Perfect in everyway, from the food, to the service to the view. Everything was mind blowing.

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

We basically had to drag ourselves away from the view when it was time to leave. But who can blame us when the view looks like that?

The foundation room mandalay bay

A bit of practical info about the bar…

Nightly Membership Admission: $30 per person (worth every penny let me assure you!) and nothing compared to admission fees in some of Las Vegas’s more high profile clubs and bars. 

Opens at 10:00 p.m. daily.

For more romantic things to do in Las Vegas for couples, take a look here at a previous blog post!

Hidden paradise in London: The Berkeley Hotel rooftop pool review

When you live in a city like London, holidays and time off are majorly important, because getting out of the city (if just for a day) is a bit like resetting your stress scales.

London is a big city, frantic at the best of times – and you can start to feel little frazzled at times. It’s because of this I wanted to start looking for hidden gems in the centre of London. Places you could escape to in under an hour, that make you feel like you’re somewhere relaxing, calm and a million miles from the hustle and bustle of zone 1.

That was how I stumbled upon The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. I had read about it in Time Out Magazine back in June and as soon as I saw the gorgeous rooftop pool I knew I wanted to visit and check it out for myself. It looked like everything I’d been hoping for – somewhere I could visit just for a day (that’s all I needed!) but feel like I’d had a mini vacation afterwards.

From the moment I stepped onto The Berkeley Hotel’s rooftop pool area… I knew this was my new favourite place in London. I mean look at it…!

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

There are loads of different packages you can opt for when visiting The Berkeley – full list here on their website – ranging from about £125 – £570. All spa packages include a treatment (sometimes 2 or 3), rooftop pool access and in some case food and drink too.

When you arrive, you’ll be shown around the spa changing rooms, given a locker, dressing gown and slippers – and then taken up to the pool where your lounge beds are waiting for you! The lovely thing about the rooftop pool area is how calming and un-cluttered it feels. There are only 10 beds next to the pool (and about 8 in a private garden next door to it) so it feels really exclusive and private.

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

During the day, there were only around 8/9 other people that came and went. Two girls doing the ‘mother-to-be’ package next to us, and a couple of business women further along the poolside who were there for a couple of hours. Later in the day, a few guys came up who were hotel residents and did a few laps in the pool before heading into the gym.

It was so quiet and chilled out and at times it felt like we had our own private pool. If that isn’t perfection, I don’t know what is.

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Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

We got seriously lucky with the weather, it’d been raining in London all week, and luckily we managed to organise our spa day for the one day it was actually sunny! They do have a retractable roof too though (just in case) and the sun loungers are all under-cover anyway – so you don’t really stand any chance of getting rained on.

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We arrived at the spa about 11.30am and stayed until around 4.30pm, just reading, relaxing and swimming… It was the perfect little mini-escape. The spa even have copies of Cosmo and Vogue scattered around for a bit of light reading.

Once you’re there – you don’t even have to leave for supplies as they have a little lunch menu and drinks menu especially for the pool area. We got the smoked salmon, chicken escalope (I’ll never learn to pronounce that) and the strawberry smoothies.

Oh and they gave us these little cracker things with mint dip and hummus dip to start with WHICH WAS AWESOME. I could have just swam in the dip (never mind the pool).

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

The above is a wheatgrass shot I decided to try… Have you ever had one? I can’t say I liked it, but as long as it had the promised nutrients, maybe it was worth it! 😉 I definitely won’t be trying one again for the taste alone. It’s no really my cup of tea!

the berkeley hotel spa food

They have a few tables around the pool you can eat at – so you don’t have to venture far from your comfy lounge beds. We choose a table by one of the windows overlooking Knightsbridge, and the view was phenomenal.

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Overall I had an awesome time at the spa, and wouldn’t hesitate to go again. It is the perfect city-getaway… and you don’t even have to leave the city.

It’d be lovely for a hen-do too or birthday party too, the little private garden area can fit about 10 people in it and would be an amazing place to spend the day celebrating something like that!

So overall it’s awesome and gorgeous – and if you’re looking for somewhere in or around London to enjoy a spa day then I’d tell you to go for it. I took so many photos (who wouldn’t?!) so I’ll just let the rest of the photos do all the talking.

Enjoy!

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

 Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

My next trip…. Is VENICE!

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When I visited Las Vegas last year, Pad and I stayed in The Venetian Hotel and that was when I first fell in love with Venice. Yes, OK, fake Venice. But still, I figured, if I loved the fake version so much, I’m bound to fall head over heels (crazy Notebook love) with the real Venice.

My friend Harriet and I were looking for somewhere to go for a short break in June earlier in the year, and we both brought up Venice a bit tentatively. We both have boyfriends – and I think we were both expecting the other to say ‘I’m sorry – but Venice is reserved for a loved-up couple vacation, not a girls getaway.’ 

Except that neither of us thought that, and both of us wanted to go. And heck, I’ll go have a super romantic weekend away with my BFF and be done with it. So we’re going to Venice and I can’t wait. I’ve always wanted to go there, so it will be a major bucket list item checked off.

Where will I be staying? 

We’re going to be staying at LaGare Hotel, a new hotel (converted from a very old glass factory) just off the main Venice island. I’m kind of excited to be staying in local Venice, rather than touristy Venice, as I think we’ll see a whole different side to the city. It’s a 10 minute boat ride away from the main island, and the hotel offers a free shuttle – so I figure we’re pretty much sorted.

You can see here which island the hotel is located on. See, not too far!

You can see here which island the hotel is located on. See, not too far!

The hotel itself looks pretty stunning, the perfect retreat to go back to after a long day of sightseeing. I’ve got to the age now where I appreciate a nice hotel and a lovely place to come home to in the evening – and (as much as it pains me to say) my hostel days are well and truly behind me. I like comfy beds, big pillows, aircon and a decent hotel bar too much now to give them up. 

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Who are we flying with? 

I big priority for me with this holiday was that I really wanted to fly into Marco Polo airport. I’ve heard the views are pretty incredible when you fly into Venice and I wanted to be able to take advantage of them!

Most budget airlines don’t actually fly into Marco Polo I found (which was a bit annoying), but luckily I found some really affordable Monarch direct flights which were at good times (no 5am wake up call…. phew), and also flew into Marco Polo (yay!). So I got my bargain prices and my Venice view. I can’t wait to get taking photos on the plane.

What will we be doing? 

To be honest, I’m going without knowing too much what’s on offer. I’ve never been before, so I’m excited to just walk around, explore and stumble across some beautiful places. I did a quick Google search to find out what the main tourist places were (see below) as I don’t want us to miss anything crucial – but when I visit cities I love just finding those amazing hidden gems by myself.

Most people who I’ve spoken to have said the same thing really.

The magic of Venice is just exploring, walking around and soaking it all in. 

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It was the same when I visited Rome. Sure, we knew what the main sites were and we knew what the main things we wanted to see were. My favourite moments though, were stumbling across things by accident. It’s more of an adventure that way.

I’ll also be taking my Autographer on this trip (my first time taking it somewhere since I started working there) so I’m majorly excited to get it out and start taking shots somewhere different to London! It’s very quickly become my favourite little travel gadget and I can’t wait to see the incredible shots it’ll take out and about in Venice :) Credit must go to Toby (my wonderful colleague) for the shots of Venice you see below!

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Have you been to Venice and do you have any suggestions or favourite places? I’ll be there for 3 days – so would love to hear any tips or great restaurants, etc. 

How to know how much you should be tipping on holiday

One of my biggest confusions when travelling is knowing when and how much to tip.

I hate the idea of offending people – so I always do my research before I travel anywhere, so I know exactly what is expected from me. I’m lucky that my boyfriend Pad is an overly generous tipper anyway, so we don’t usually run into situations where we offend people anymore anyway.

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Saying that…

I remember the first time I ever visited NYC with my Mum and my little sister. We ate a meal in TGI Friday’s in Times Square and left a tip of 15% after we’d finished. We were pretty pleased with the service and assumed that 15% was a good tip. However when we exited the restaurant, a rather ‘pissed off’ waiter came up to us and asked us (quite aggressively) what he could possibly have done to warrant such a low tip. We were gobsmacked (at the anger he had towards us) and very apologetic too (we never meant to offend him). We quickly explained that tipping 10% is the ‘norm’ in the UK, and topped up the amount.

I don’t think this waiter would’ve let us leave if we hadn’t! 

But ever since then, I’ve always been careful about tipping (especially in the states) so figured I’d put a bit of info together about it all.

The main thing though, is to do your research

– Do a quick Google search before you leave and see if you can get a direct answer. If not that, then any travel agent (or guide book) will hopefully be able to tell you the expected amount.

– Don’t forget about tour operators and adding that price onto the cost. We took a tour in Vegas and the tip that the driver expected was about 20-25% of the ticket price. This ended up being $40 so it’s a good job we budgeted for it and knew that’s what was expected.

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– At hotels, be aware that any kind of ‘added service’ will expect a small tip. In US hotels this often includes housekeeping too. Leave the tip on the pillow (it doesn’t have to be much, perhaps $1/2 a day). Same goes for luggage guys at the taxi rank, and the taxi drivers themselves!

In Vegas we found that tipping a couple of dollars in the morning when we left the hotel for the day, ensured more towels and more shampoo goodies when we got back. Coincidence? Maybe.

In Vegas we found that tipping a couple of dollars in the morning when we left the hotel for the day, ensured more towels and more shampoo goodies when we got back. Coincidence? Maybe.

– For all occasions which aren’t restaurants and tours – If you’re unsure, just round up to the nearest ten. If your taxi far cost $8, then just give them $10. I always try to think, that those few dollars will means more to them than you.

– Be wary of ‘help’ at places like the airport. Many people will offer to carry your bags without you even asking. These people aren’t (usually) doing it out of the kindness of their hearts, they will want tipping so bear that in mind.

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– Even in all-inclusive resorts you may be expected to tip for some services. I recently went away to the Dominican Republic and if we wanted waiter service on the beach or pool, you were expected to tip $2/3 for each order.

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Who else might need tipping?

Waiter

Waitress

Bartender

Sommelier

Parking valet

Hotel porter

Taxi driver

Housekeeper

Concierge

Hairdresser

Beautician.

Make sure you’ve got cash on you (small change) 

Keep some small bills or coins in a separate purse or wallet, so you’ll always have some at hand. This totally avoids those awkward moments and awkward conversations.

Here are a few tips for specific destinations (found via Thomas Cook): 

·         Spain/Canary Islands (Currency: Euro)
Housekeeper: About 5 euros per person per week.
Hotel porter: About 1 euro per item of luggage.
Waiter: If you’ve just had a cup of coffee, don’t feel obliged, however if you’ve had a meal you might want to leave a few euros, depending on the size of the bill. Spanish bartenders don’t expect tips.
Taxi driver: No tip required.

·         Greece (Currency: Euro)
Housekeeper: 3 -4 euros per person per week.
Hotel porter: About 1 euro per item of luggage, however porterage is not commonplace outside Athens.
Waiter: Approximately 10% of the restaurant bill.
Taxi driver: Taxi drivers don’t tend to expect a tip, unless you are travelling on a long journey. Ask the taxi driver to use the meter, or provide you with a quote before your journey.

·         Turkey (Currency: Turkish lira)
Housekeeper: Approximately 5-6 Turkish lira per person per week.
Hotel porter: Approximately 2-3 Turkish lira per item of luggage.
Waiter: Approximately 10% of the bill at dinner. If you eat lunch somewhere small and reasonable, you can just round up.
Taxi driver: Approximately 2-3 Turkish lira for short distances.

·         Egypt (Currency: Egyptian pound)
Tips are highly appreciated here, and the locals generally prefer receiving US dollars rather than Egyptian pounds.
Housekeeper : Approximately 20-25 Egyptian pounds per person per week.
Hotel porter : Approximately 5 Egyptian pounds per item of luggage.
Waiter: 10% of the bill, unless gratuity is already included in which case you can just round upwards . At the all-inclusive hotels, you might want to consider tipping 10-15 Egyptian pounds every now and then.
Taxi driver: No tip required and remember you can often haggle the price.

·         Cyprus (Currency: Euro)
Housekeeper: About 4-6 euros per person per week.
Hotel porter: 1-2 euros per item of luggage.
Waiter: 10% of the bill.
Taxi driver: No tip required.

·        USA (Currency: US dollar)
Waiter: 15-25%, waiters usually rely on tips in order to stay above the minimum wage, so a 15-25% tip is standard. Paying 25% would indicate that you received great service, but even if you weren’t particularly happy, a 10% tip is still expected. If you don’t tip at all, you risk being followed out of the restaurant by an unhappy waiter wanting to know what they did wrong, like we did in NYC!
Bar: $1 for every drink.
Taxi: $1 for short rides and 15-20% from the airport.
Hotel porter: $1 per item of luggage.

Ever had a bad experience when tipping someone? 

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

The Restaurant list: Best Places to Eat in Queenstown

You’d never imagine that a small, tiny, alpine village in the remote country of New Zealand would be such an AWESOME place for food. Seriously.

Queenstown is the best place for food in the entire world. I lived there for 6 months – and in that time experienced the following things:

The best burger I’ve ever tasted, the best ribs I’ve ever tasted, the best sushi I’ve ever tasted, the best Chinese take-out I’ve ever ordered… the list goes on. If you’re visiting Queenstown make sure you save money for dining out – because you’re going to need it. There are so many incredible choices.

Here are my favourites….

Flame: www. flamegrill.co.nz

Hands down, the best ribs I have ever had. With no exceptions. Flame have nailed it.

I would pay a huge amount of money to get some shipped over to the UK right now. Wouldn’t that be something.

I don’t care if you don’t like ribs. If you go to Flame you should get them. Try them. And then eat your words as well as your meat. It will blow your mind. They also do amazing cocktails – because obviously you need something to wash down all the ribs and steak you’ve ordered. The portion sizes here are huge – but the quality isn’t compromised by the size, which make it all the more enjoyable. If you do anything whilst you’re in Queenstown – make it Flame.

flame ribs queesntown

flame ribs queesntown

eating ribs flame queenstown

FergBurger: www.fergburger.com

If you’re heading to Queenstown you’ve probably already heard of Fergburger. It’s like this urban myth. Travellers talk of a huge burger so juicy and so delicious you’d eat there every day if you could. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.

It’s basically a take-out burger place (if you do manage to grab a seat – you’re very lucky, as there aren’t many) so it’s perfect for a sunny day, when you can grab a  burger and go sit by the lake. The portions are also huge here – so unless you haven’t eaten in weeks all you need to order is the burger… no chips necessary! My favourite was the CockadoodleOink – but in all truth you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Except maybe the vegetarian options…. because then WHY!?

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

fergburger review queenstown restaurant

Palace on the Lake: www.lakesidepalaceatqueenstown.com

Chinese food is one of my favourite kinds – so I really wanted to track down a decent Chinese place in the first couple of weeks of living in QT. This is a great choice for dining in or dining out. Try the lemon chicken. YUM.

FAT BADGERS: www.fatbadgerspizza.com

I’m pretty sure one of the first things you do when you move to a new place is order pizza take-out, right? So we were pretty chuffed when we stumbled upon Fat Badgers. Don’t go to any other pizza place in town – because I’ve tried the rest and they don’t even come close to Fat Badgers.

Fat Badgers is amazing. No, scrap that, IT’S THE BEST PIZZA YOU’LL EVER HAVE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE – so much good pizza yummyness. Get the Smokey Badger (personal favourite) and make sure you’re hungry because these pizzzas are HUUUGGGGGEEEE.

fat badgers pizza Queenstown

fat badgers pizza Queenstown

Patagonia: http://www.patagoniachocolates.co.nz/

This place is great for those with a sweet tooth or a coffee habit – because you’d be beyond satisfied here. The do this amazing ice-cream (every flavour ever in the world) and also incredible sorbet too, the have the biggest range of home-made chocolate I’ve ever seen, and they also do good coffee. Oh, and there is free-wifi and it’s right by the lake so the views are great.

The Sushi place on the Mall Highstreet

I went here at least 4 times a week when we lived there (probably more…) and it was awesome. If you like sushi you’ll love it here. It’s a tiny place, tucked somewhere in the middle of the high street. Get there around midday for the best selection, because once it’s out it sells out fast. Why? Because it’s delicious and cheap. Perfect for a quick lunch.

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Johnny Barr’s Sandwiches: www.johnnybarrs.com

Another great choice for a quick lunch – this place does the best sandwiches in town. My favourite was the pulled pork with coleslaw (I could’ve eaten those every day). Chow down inside the deli, or grab yours to go and eat it on the beach. Either way, don’t give this place a miss – it’s scrummy.

johnny barrs queenstown review

Could I look any happier about that sandwich??

johnny barrs queenstown review

johnny barrs queenstown review

The Remarkables Sweet Shop: www.remarkablesweetshop.co.nz

Got a sweet tooth? Go and grab some amazing sweets or homemade fudge from The Remarkables Sweet Shop. Top tip? If you head in and look curiously towards the fudge fridge, they’ll let you try the fudge FOR FREE. So much yummyness, so little time.

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Cookie Time: www.cookietime.co.nz

Another choice for those with a sweet tooth… head over to Cookie Time for cookie happy hour (buy one get one free!). Such a treat, and full of loads of flavours and choices. Always warm and chewy, and there are cold crunchy ones too for those who prefer them. I try not to think too much about Cookie Time now I’m back in the UK. It just makes me sad. And hungry.

cookie time queenstown

A few other places worth noting…. 

– Winnies (good pizza, and a great lively atmosphere and bar in the evenings)

– Moto (a solid choice for breakfast!)

– Vudu (another solid choice for breakfast!)

Where are your favourite places to eat in Queenstown?

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Can Hypnotherapy cure a Fear of Flying?

I’ve written about my fear of flying previously, and to this day it remains on of the most emotional things I’ve ever written about. It’s hard writing about your flying phobia (or any fear) – especially when it’s the kind of fear that completely consumes you, as mine is.

I haven’t always been terrified of flying. I’ve never particularly enjoyed it (who does?) – but it wasn’t until my boyfriend and I set out on our RTW trip, that it really reared it’s ugly head. We had two pretty bad flights when travelling; the first coming into land at Queenstown (New Zealand) which we later learned is a specially classified airport – because it’s so tricky to fly into, and the second was coming into land at Hong Kong during a huge thunderstorm at midnight.

Those two flights were bad enough to burn themselves into my memory and leave scars, and ever since the very thought of flying sends shivers down my spine and makes my hands clammy with sweat.

I prefer to have my feet on solid ground.

I prefer to have my feet on solid ground.

Saying that though, I’m actively trying to overcome my fear. Earlier in the year in March, before a long-haul flight to The Dominican Republic, I had two hypnotherapy sessions to see if (maybe) it could help me. I contacted Jennie Francis who works at Harley Street in London and arranged to have two sessions with her a few days before I was due to take off.

I want to start by saying, I had no idea what to expect from Hypnotherapy. I had no idea whether it would work, or have any effect at all – but I was positive I wanted to give it a try and I was feeling good about the idea it might work.

The sessions themselves lasted about an hour (ish) with about 35 minutes of that being Hypnotherapy. In our first session, Jennie was really keen to chat with me openly – about what my fear was and where it was rooted from. My fear of flying comes from a lack of understanding, and also a lack of control. So Jennie targeted these two key areas in our sessions.

The experience itself was bizarre. Kind of like falling asleep – but knowing you’re not really asleep. Like when you hit snooze in the morning and doze off for a while. You know you’re on the verge of consciousness and you’re very aware that at any moment you could be awake again – but you’re still very detached from reality and waking thoughts. Like when you’re snoozing – It feels like you’ve been asleep for hours when the buzzer next rings – but in actual fact it’s only been a few minutes. It’s a bizarre warped sense of reality, but completely pleasant to be in – almost like a guided day dream.

Jennie was pleased with how my body had reacted to the hypnotherapy after the first session, and I’ll admit – when I left I was feeling really positive too. I had been dreading the day in the office as I knew I had lots of unpleasant tasks ahead of me – and yet suddenly (and it was a sudden change) it didn’t seem so bad anymore.

It seemed to leak over into other areas of my life too – and I felt myself being a little more carefree and less anxious in general.

After my second and final session I left Jennie’s office feeling really positive, and even though I knew I’d be flying the very next day – I wasn’t filled with the dread that I usually would have been. Ordinarily – before the hypnotherapy – the ‘pre-flying dread’ would have set in at least 48 hours before boarding the flight. This time, I didn’t really get it until I entered the airport. I even slept the night before the flight – which felt like an achievement in itself.

I know, to many people, this might seem like a small success – but I really can’t describe the sheer relief I felt to have been lifted from the fear – if only temporarily.

Stupidly (and this set my confidence back a bit) Pad and I forgot to check in online before our flight (doh!) so we didn’t get to sit next to each other. This made me panic a bit – which was frustrating because it was the first time I’d felt anything negative towards flying since the hypnotherapy. I’ll admit, some of those old feelings did start to creep back and I got a bit teary – but it was more the idea of facing the flight without Pad at my side (something I’d taken for granted would happen).

It wasn’t so much the flight itself. I like to have a hand to hold.

My hand-holding partner.

My hand-holding partner.

Once we got on the flight and had taken off, I was OK. Take off and landing were still a bit tentative – and were still my least favourite parts of the experience (they always have been) – but I had Jennie’s voice in my head the entire time telling me to be calm, telling me I was in a safe environment and telling me to relax.

One of the exercises we did in the sessions was a visualisation exercise where I imagined walking down a spiral staircase into a garden. With every step I took, I had to feel myself becoming more and more calm. This didn’t stand out to me during the sessions themselves – but when I was on the flight and felt myself begin to panic, I found closing my eyes and imagining the staircase and the calmness, really relaxing and really helpful. Whenever we went through a patch of turbulence I did the same thing, and it got my thoughts back on track.

Another thing to note, is that I found myself enjoying the experience more so than I ever had. I was no longer scared stiff. Sure, I wasn’t lapping it up – but I allowed myself to relax into the flight and I wasn’t perched on the edge of my seat the entire time either. I even got up and walked around for 10 minutes at one point – which in previously flights I’d have struggled to allow myself to do.

Even now, 2 months later – I’m reflecting positively – not negatively. That’s a tiny difference but for me it’s an important one. The thing I try and remind myself constantly, is that I don’t actually want to be scared. More than anything I want this fear to be gone. So I’m urging the hypnotherapy to be successful and I’m urging myself to continue those positive thoughts.

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I’ll be flying solo in June (on my way to Venice) and I’ll be flying solo out to Vegas (in July) so I guess my confidence will truly be tested then.

Let’s see…!

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

20 travel GIFs that will give you itchy feet.

I like GIFs.

I also like travelling.

So I thought I would combine these loves to make an awesome (and semi-depressing) list of gorgeous travelling GIFs, bound to give anyone itchy feet. Warning: If you are sat at an office desk right now staring out at a bleak rainy day – this blog post might encourage a glass of wine after work. Or five. It may also encourage spontaneous air ticket purchases.

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london

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hammock GIF

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new york landscape gif

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And here’s what I look like when I realise my next holiday isn’t for two months…

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Image Source: Giphy.Com

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

#epicadventures photography competition

The folks over at Blacks (who do outdoor clothing and adventure gear) are currently running a competition for bloggers and photographers. The challenge is, to create a blog post showcasing your entries to the following categories:

  • Wild
  • Fast
  • Panoramic
  • Epic

In case you’re thinking of entering yourself, you then tweet the link to @Blacks_Online using the hashtag #epicadventures. Individual category winners will be judged by a panel, while the overall winner will be judged by Explore’s managing director Ashley Toft. The overall winner will win £2000 to spend with Explore.co.uk. Four runners up will receive gift cards worth £150 to spend in Blacks stores and www.blacks.co.uk.

I decided I wanted to give the competition a go. As a travel blogger, photography is one of my favourite things – as (of course) is adventure. If you can class adventure as a hobby, I totally would. Anyway, below you’ll find my photographs, I’ve gone with two photographs for each category – because I couldn’t decide and had way too many options…

Wild

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Patong, Phuket: Probably the wildest place I’ve ever been. Not wild as in ‘nature’ but wild as in ‘holy crap this is insane’. One walk up and down the main street and you’ll feel so thrown in at the deep-end, you’ll be wishing for those little orange inflatables you used to wear as a kid. This town is wild – the wildest place I’ve ever been. Period.

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The Great Ocean Road, Australia: This photo is one of my favourites from our RTW trip. My boyfriend isn’t a fan – but I think this photo is hilarious. After a day of driving along the wildly beautiful Great Ocean Road, we got out to take a walk along the coast cliffs to see the twelve apostles. The wind was WILD. The most wild wind you can imagine. And upon trying to take a photo to capture the wildness – this is what I got. Perfect!

Fast

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Hong Kong: I took this photo in a very ‘locals’ neighbourhood in Hong Kong whilst we were there for a few days. We went looking for amazing food – and found this incredible noodle place. This old man must have been about 70 years old, but the speed at which he was making these noodles was incredible. I could barely capture it in focus he was doing it so fast.

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Paris: This was a shot I took of the Eiffel Tower with a huge main road between myself and the tower. For me, it sums up Paris. It’s this huge, bustling, busy, fast-moving city – but with these never-changing, historic monuments. I love how this photo captured the speed of the city and how fast it moves, rather than the slower, romantic side of things.

Panoramic

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Hong Kong: A panoramic shot taken from Victoria’s Peak in Hong Kong. Without a doubt the best view you can get of the huge city. I love how you can see everything as far as the camera reaches.

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Christchurch, NZ: One of the photogenic beaches I’ve ever been on – this photo sums up the lazy beach lifestyle in NZ and Oz. I love the surfers centred in the frame, and it remains one of my favourite photos that I ever took.

Epic

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Queenstown, NZ: Whilst my boyfriend and I lived in New Zealand, this was the view from our balcony. I must have taken a photo from this spot every day – and every day the vied was epic. How can it not be; with those mountains, the lake, the sharp peaks and the awesome clouds? This photo is my favourite of all the ones I took because (for me anyway) it sums up the sheer size and scale of New Zealand and it expresses just how Epic that part of the world it. Everything about this photo is epic, and my heart aches whenever I look at it!

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Kuala Lumpur: This photo was taken from my hotel window in Kuala Lumpur. A huge storm had erupted in the sky minutes before I took this and I loved seeing the rain lash against the window as the thunder and lightening struck the sky and the buildings in the distance. It was truly epic and one of the most incredible storms I’ve ever witnessed!

If you’ve entered this competition, I’d love for you to post a link to your own blog post! Which photo was your favourite? :)

 

My First All-Inclusive Vacation: Review of Dreams Palm Beach, Punta Cana

Last year in the midst of our RTW trip, we got an email from our friends back home, announcing their engagement and their plans to get married int he Dominican Republic. They invited us along (yay!) and so we booked ourselves onto our first ever All Inclusive holiday. Having just got back from the holiday a few days ago (the wedding was beautiful by the way!) I wanted to get my thoughts down about the experience, as it was so completely different from anything I’ve ever done before.

Firstly, let me talk about how I usually travel. Pad and I will usually book flights first, and then we’ll search out a hotel or maybe an Air BnB apartment (if we’re staying somewhere like NYC). Pad and I really love our city breaks, and when we were travelling we did loads of cities, and split the cities up with the occasional town or beach village. We love exploring, seeing everything, trying everything and sampling all the restaurants we can possibly fit into our time.

So. All Inclusive was bound to be different. But I was kind of excited for the change of pace. As much as Pad and I had loved travelling – it had been exhausting – what with keeping up with budgets, changing currencies, finding somewhere new to eat every night and every lunch time, remembering to keep your purse with you, travel documents… all of that. For our all inclusive holiday, we literally turned up. Unpacked our bags. And then started enjoying ourselves. I didn’t take my purse or phone out once the entire time – it stayed in our room safe.

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So where did we stay? 

Our hotel was the Dreams Resort Palm Beach in Punta Cana. We didn’t choose the hotel – it was the beautiful bride’s choice – so we trusted her judgement and just went along with the hotel choice. The reviews were good online, so I wasn’t really nervous at all. When we got there it was great. The pool area was incredible, the beach was lovely (beautiful white sand and turquoise water!), and the rooms were well decorated with a massive king-size bed and loads of TV channels (always a bonus for the hungover mornings or late nights).

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What was included? 

Included in our package was all food and all drink. The only money we spent the entire time we were there was for a 7 day internet pass (which cost $60 US). The price for internet was pretty steep to be honest – but we were used to that from travelling, so didn’t think twice. We stayed in a hotel in NZ once where they charged $28 for 24 hours of internet…. so this didn’t seem too bad in comparison.

So, we had unlimited supply of food and drink (woohooo). There were several bars located throughout the resort (and we rarely queued for more than a couple of minutes to be served). Drinks included soft drinks, water, cocktails, beer, spirits, etc – whenever and wherever you wanted it.

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(The Island Kiss cocktail above was beyond amazing… but don’t have more than a couple – the coconut milk makes your tummy go funny!)

Food supply was awesome. Breakfast in the morning was served in The World Cafe – a huge buffet hall with loads of selections. The World Cafe also stayed open throughout the day and night serving up different things for lunch and dinner (and midnight pizza if you fancied it). Alongside that there was plenty of sit-down restaurants to choose from; And Asian restaurant (with Japanese and Chinese menus), a sea-side grill (serving up steak, ribs, fish, etc), a mexican restaurant (I tried Cactus for the first time there, yum), an Italian restaurant, a French restaurant and a coffee shop style cafe with sandwiches, doughnuts, muffins and pastries. All of these were open every night, so there was plenty to choose from.

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Our favourites were the Japanese (which was loads of fun, and delicious) and the Italian (major yum). I also ate way to many chocolate muffins from the cafe, that would ever be acceptable in normal day to day life.

Mmmmm muffins.

My only negative comment, was that sometimes the waiting ties were a bit ridiculous. Some of the restaurants seemed more popular than others, and (because we were part of a big group, and so often ate in sets of 6+) we were expected to wait an hour (and then some) for a table. This wasn’t the end of the world (we’d just go and take advantage of the lobby bar and free drinks…. but it’d be nice if bigger tables and parties were able to book for specific times.

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What was the hotel and amenities like?

I have no complaints on that front. The hotel staff were so friendly, and they put on loads of activities for those who wanted to try them. Pad and I are pretty laid back on holiday so we probably didn’t take full advantage of this – but that’s only because we’re just as happy relaxing with a book or chatting with friends. I didn’t really feel the need for water aerobics or zumba classes….!

Even if you don’t join in with the activities though – it’s kind of hilarious to watch.

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The people in the resort were a nice mix of young and old. There was a huge group of American spring-breakers there for a few days which livened the place up, but there were also older couples and young families with children too. There is so much space in the resort that you’re never really on top of each other (unless that’s your plan, wink wink).

I loved the pool area, and was quite happy just milling around there all day. I know a few in our group felt a bit restless being confined to a resort for the majority of the time, which is kind of understandable if you’re there for a couple of weeks – but I never felt like that bothered me or Pad. We were totally happy to just relax and take it easy – we kind of embraced how different it was to travelling and just enjoyed the ‘don’t have to do anything’ side of things.

On the hotel beach there were several free activities you could take part in at any time, such as kayaking and wind surfing – which was a lot of fun, and added a bit of variety to the pool area. I was really impressed these were free too, and the hotel didn’t charge you for the use. Nice touch!

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We did go on one excursion after the wedding (and others in the group chose to do more excursions too), which was fantastic. There were plenty of things to choose from, such as snorkelling, deep sea fishing, and dolphin swimming. We took a private boat out as a group and enjoyed a morning of drinking, snorkelling, swimming, etc and it was perfect.

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Would I recommend the resort, and going all inclusive? 

Holy crap, yes! I could easily see myself doing more all inclusive holidays in the future. Maybe not every year, but I’ll definitely do it again. I loved having the time to get ready in the evening, and get dressed up – knowing I can always pop back to my room and touch up my make-up or change my shoes if they start aching. I also loved not worrying about money or carrying cash – it was so nice to just take my camera out with me and nothing else.

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Aside from the perks of not having to worry about anything, I found the pace of the holiday really nice too. I like not having to wake up at a specific time to make sure we got the free breakfast (with all-inclusive that doesn’t matter!), or having to worry about missing a bus, or a connection – or something else along those lines. The all inclusive resort holiday just eradicated all those things, and isn’t that what going on holiday is all about?

I know in the travel blogging community all-inclusive holidays are kind of scowled upon by many – because you often stay confined to a resort and see very little of the culture and every-man life of locals. And yes, I agree with that criticism. But, if you want a relaxing holiday, with beautiful amenities and without any worry or fuss surrounding you the entire time – then all-inclusive is for you. For me, there should be no stigma. Backbacking / travelling / city breaks / all-inclusives – they’re all different types of vacations for different occasions and different types of people. I don’t think one is more valid than another.

When I came home I felt truly relaxed, and when you’re a Londoner – that’s exactly what a holiday should do. So I’m all for it!

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Live Your Lunch Hour

Since being back in London and being back in a full time job, sometimes it’s difficult to find time for yourself – especially finding time to enjoy the city you’re living in. London is an incredible city to live in, there is so much to see and do, but when you live and work here – usually you’re limited to weekends and evenings to get out and explore.

I was recently approached by Flexioffice, who are currently running a campaign to help people claim back their lunch hour. Why is this even a thing? Well, apparently only 30% of UK employees actually take their lunch break – with 70% skipping it. I hate to admit it, but I’m part of the 70% of those who skip it or give it a miss.

An average working day for me starts at 8.20am – when I leave my home in Balham (South West London). I usually get into my office about 9.15am – after grabbing some breakfast from the Pret nearby first. I’ll finish work usually around 5.45pm, which gets me home for 6.30pm (maybe a little later, depending on how crowded the tube is).

So, when it comes to lunch, I’d rather run out and grab something quickly (and then eat it at my desk), if it means I can leave on time later in the day. But – Flexioffice got in touch and suggested, that for one week – I claim back my lunch break. That I take the hour and head out and enjoy it. Enjoy the city – and take advantage of that free time I’ve been given in the middle of the day.

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My office is located in-between Goodge Street and Warren Street underground stations, so there is plenty within walking distance to do, and loads of amazing restaurants and cafes too. I’ve decided to share below some of my favourites, just in case you ever find yourself in the area – and ever feel like trying a few of my recommendations!

Franco Manca Pizzeria

I’m pretty lucky to have my favourite independent pizza chain right on my office doorstep. We have one a 5 minute walk from our house in Balham (not the reason we choose the house…!) too, but it’s great to have one so close to where I work too. Franco Manca’s is amazing, and really affordable. Not to mention the freshest, yummiest pizza outside of Italy.

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Abokado Sushi

Most days on my lunch break, I nip out and buy a few sushi rolls for lunch, then eat them at my desk. My favourite sushi place near my office (and probably in London) is Abokado. It’s a 5 minute walk from my office, and they always have a ton of choice too (I’ve never known them to sell out before 3pm). They have all kinds of gorgeous roll combinations, and it’s so affordable too. It’s about £1.50 for one roll of sushi – and I’d usually get 2 or 3 to fill me up for the afternoon.

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Pure

If I’m feeling like I want something light and healthy – then my absolute favourite place for lunch is Pure. Pure is an amazing salad shop, but if you don’t spot anything in their ready made salad bar that interests you – then you can make you’re own salad and they’ll mix it for you. They have dozens of ingredients, and it’s like an adults version of cinema pick and mix. My favourite combination is; caesar leaves, bacon bits, egg, parmesan cheese, garden peas, chicken and caesar dressing. It’s a little more expensive than what I’d usually spend (my mix-it-yourself Caesar salad combination usually costs about £7) but it’s a treat and it’s always delicious. And the portions are MASSIVE.

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Another great way to spend an hour around my office is shopping! I’m a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street (yay!) so there are always plenty of shopping options there, more than enough to fill an hours lunch break! Another guilty pleasure of mine is the flagship PaperChase store, right opposite Goodge Street station. I could spent hours just milling around that shop, not that my bank account would thank me for it afterwards! They even have a little coffee shop on the 1st floor, with lovely big windows you can people watch from.

What are your favourite things to do in your lunch break? Or do you hide away at your desk usually, like me?

I’d love to hear any suggestions you have – especially around the central Soho area! :)

Autographer Travel Camera – Review

I’m a huge photography geek, so when I was invited to try out the new Autographer camera on my recent trip to Bath, I leapt at the chance. I have 4 cameras in my collection, from an old-school polaroid camera to new mirror-less SLR cameras. But, saying that – I don’t have anything like the Autographer, a camera which intelligently and automatically takes photographs as the light and heat changes around you.

Sounds a bit fancy right? Yes – that’s true – but it’s the ultimate in camera gadgetry.

Here’s the product info, you can find on their website:

Autographer is a new type of camera which has been custom built to enable spontaneous, hands-free image capture. Its world leading technology includes a custom 136° eye view lens, an ultra small GPS unit and 5 in-built sensors.
These sensors are fused by a sophisticated algorithm to tell the camera exactly the right moments to take photos. You’ve never met a camera like this before. 

Autographer’s five sensors record a range of data which helps the camera decide when to take a photo. The readings are saved as metadata against each image which can be used as filters within your collection. Experience a new level
of creative control through data.

The idea is, you clip the camera on your shirt, coat, t-shirt, etc – and leave it on throughout the day to capture the moments just as you saw them. The camera doesn’t need any prompts to take the photos as it sense changes in lighting, heat, direction (and some other stuff) and whenever it senses change or movement, it’ll take a photo.

I thought this was kind of awesome, and I was so excited to give it a try.

First off, let’s show you some of the photos it took… So you can see what it’s capable of. I’ve tried not to edit these too much, so the results are pretty much as they were taken.

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Positives: 

– great little gadget, and it added a lot of fun to the weekend

– Looking through thousands of photographs (which were all a surprise) was really fun

– The camera is small, light and easy to figure out

– You’ll feel like an under-cover spy (which is kind of cool)

– You don’t need to worry about it capturing photos, and it let’s you fully enjoy the experience of being handsfree (no panic attacks that you’ve lost your camera or left it somewhere!)

– The fish-eye effect that it puts on photos is quirky and fun

– The memory is great and the device can literally hold thousands of photos. I took about 2400 and that was over a day and a half. The memory was about 30% full I think.

Negatives: 

– People do notice the camera, and will give you weird untrusting looks

– You won’t get to be in your photos, unless you remove it from your shirt and take it selfie style. I took one above to show you. This is kind of annoying – as a traveller and photographer it’s important to me to actually be in some of the photos I take!

– If you see something amazing, there’s always a chance the camera won’t have captured it. And you have no way of knowing until you upload the images.

– The quality of the images isn’t great. They blurred easily, and more often than not they were over or under exposed.

– A lot of the images will be a bit ‘meh’ and you’ll have to filter through the bad for the occasional good one.

Overall? 

It’s a fun product and it’s a worthy member of any photographers camera collection. It doesn’t replace an SLR though, and (to be honest) I’d rather just carry my bulky camera around and be sure that the images I’m taking are high quality and composed exactly how I’d like them to be. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy using this camera though. It was a lot of fun browsing the images and there were a few gems in there – and a few hilarious ones too. Whilst the images weren’t quite as good as I might have hoped, I think that probably had to do with the weird weather, and also that I’d never worn it before. Maybe this is the kind of thing where you need a bit of practice?

I’m also keen to try the camera out with a more photogenic surrounding. Bath in rainy weather probably doesn’t do this camera justice. I’ll be heading to the beautiful white sandy beaches of Dominican Republic soon and I’m excited to try it out there too. I have a feeling those images will be stunning using the little Autographer gadget. Stay tuned!

Have you tried the Autographer? What did you think?

Thrift shopping in NYC: Where to find the best hidden gems

I’d be kidding myself if I said the shops weren’t one of the reasons I love NYC so much… If you’re a NYC virgin – then on your first trip you’re bound to spend at least one day wondering hopelessly through the streets and streets of shops, your arms aching from all the bags you’ve already filled. I remember the first time I went with my Mum and sister, we went on what could only be described as a super spree. When we got back to the hotel, the shopping bags took up more space than the hotel beds in the room.

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It’s not all the high street shopping though, and actually – a big bonus of being in a city as diverse and unique as NYC, are the amazing thrift shops hidden around every corner.

It seems that many of today’s youth have come to some sort of rude awakening: thanks to Macklemore’s award winning single “Thrift Shop”, much of the stigma that came with bargain hunting in Goodwill and charity shops has been relieved. Actually – it’s my guilty pleasure. Pad still pokes fun at me a little, because I can’t walk past a second hand shop without wanting to have a poke around inside. My auntie once found a legit Mulberry bag in her local thrift shop…. which must’ve been worth £300+?! She snapped it up for a couple of pounds…. bargain.

So, yes, as opposed to buying high-end, haut couture…. the hidden treasures of thrift shops are now being championed. Which I’m kind of glad about!

Such a lifestyle is quite easy to maintain when you’re staying in your home town, where you know each street in and out, and know of all the thrift markets in the area. Visit London even notes that bargain hunting in thrift shops is one of the best things to do in the city (it’s definitely one of my favourites….!), but what if you’re travelling to a city that’s known for its high-end boutiques and the shopping experiences, and you don’t know any locals to point you in the direction of the second hand shops and thrift stores? Then you have a pickle. Because for sure, it’s not something you want to missing out on.

Because let’s face it, it’s never hard to find the high end shopping districts. The tour books point you in that direction as soon as you land! NYC is one of the most sophisticated places in the world, housing the world-famous Fifth Avenue, where all upscale designers can be found easily. But New York also has some of the best thrift shops in the world.

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More and more people find themselves avoiding high street and all of the expenses that come with shopping there. Aside from the incredibly high prices of goods in the stores, Parking4Less reports that parking fines are also to blame for people avoiding high street shops. “If people are worried about paying a fortune in fines, it will make them more likely to shop online or go to out of town shopping centres.” Shoppers in NYC now flock into the amazing thrift shops nestled within the smaller neighbourhoods, rather than the central touristy areas, looking for great bargains on vintage items of clothing. If you’re travelling to New York and unsure where to start bargain hunting, try visiting these amazing stores:

1. Beacon’s Closet
Found in: Williamsburg: 88 North 11th Street, Park Slope: 92 5th Avenue, Manhattan: 10 W 13th Street

The shop’s logo is a recognisable bald baby wearing thick-rimmed glasses, and Beacon’s Closet is one of the best thrift stores in the area. They’re excellently stocked – with loads and loads of racks of clothes and garments arranged by colour and garment type, making it much easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. It’s pretty much heaven for people like me. It’s easy to get lost in Beacon’s for hours, as they not only carry clothes, but also shoes, bags and accessories. Plus, they also have an excellent online store!

best thrift shops in NYC

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2. Finderz Keeperz
Found in: 121 W 116th St.

Finderz Keeperz offers genuine vintage material on the $20-$40 (£12- £25) range, with everything from old ranges of sports shoes to feathered boas, scarves, hats, clutches, dresses and tops. It’s in its own little nook of the city, and the shop is a bit cramped (quite unlike Beacon’s), but there’s a great number of treasures just waiting to be unearthed from underneath the piles of vintage clothing found in Finderz Keeperz.

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3. Amarcord Vintage
Found in: 52 Lafayette St between Prince and Spring Sts; 223 Bedford Ave between North 4th and 5th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Those who are looking for a thrift store experience that still has a European flair will experience the time of their lives in Amarcord Vintage. The owners of the store handpick vintage pieces from across the world, bringing Italian high-end fashion down to reachable prices as they showcase them with unknown brands that still translate the brand’s style. They also have a regularly-updated online store that display the newest acquisitions of the boutique.

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Whether you’re after a high-end shopping experience, or just want to get down and dirty with the bargains at the local thrift shop, it seems New York is still ahead of the pack. It’s really just a matter of knowing where to look for that perfect item to finish off your collection. Don’t be afraid of going into suburban neighbourhoods, and in NYC this means venturing out in Brooklyn, New Jersey and Queens.

Do you know any great shops in NYC? Share below if so! :)

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Review of Grays Hotel Bath – An Instagrammers Paradise

You know sometimes, when you flick through those interior and home magazines – and you’re like… ‘Yes. Very nice. But nobody’s house actually looks like that’ well last week I was proved wrong.

We went off to Bath for the weekend to celebrate Pad’s birthday (it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, so that was quite exciting) and we were invited to stay at Grays Hotel Bath, a Boutique Bed and Breakfast, a brand new hotel just outside the city centre.

I was expecting it to be nice (their website does a pretty amazing job at selling the property to you) but when we got there I was a bit overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of it all.

It’s basically exactly how I want my house to look. It’s like they went inside my head and built my dream house, right down to tiny little details such as tea towels. So basically, this is just a blog post of pictures. So in 10 years time when I have a proper house and a little family, I can just look at these photos and recreate everything I see here. I’ll also review the hotel too – but there’s not much to say other than: It was perfect.

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When I spoke to the owner, he told me it was actually his wife who painted the beautiful art on the walls. This one in particular, I loved. All the little details were so wonderfully thought-out and put together too – things like the flowers in the corridors, and the bed frames.

That’s what sets this place apart from a hotel – because in hotels, usually the rooms are all the same, identical even. I had the privilege of looking round the majority of rooms at Gray’s and they were all different. Each has it’s own character, and it’s own theme. But each is stunning.

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Breakfast the next morning was served until 10am, but I got the impression that was pretty flexible and you wouldn’t have been turned away if you were late rising. The breakfast room was sunny and bright (even on the rainy day we were there) and the breakfast was hot and fresh and delicious. There were several options (from a full english, to cereals and toast) so something for everyone really.

We both went for the full english. Obviously.

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What do you think? Are you impressed by Grays Hotel Bath? Do you prefer B&Bs to hotels?

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

The reality of living in London.

I’ve been wanting to write about the reality of living in London ever since moving back here last summer after travelling. The reality of it, versus the perceived reality that you may have if you’ve never lived here. But before I start – I should point out: I LOVE London.

I may be slagging her off a bit here, but it’s like we’re old friends, London and I. I can say she has awful weather – and she can insult my taste in trashy TV. It’s OK. She knows there is no where else in the UK I would settle down. London has everything I need.

1. You will never, ever get a seat on the Northern Line in rush hour. Unless you live in Morden.  

In Balham, I never get a seat. Never.

So give up that hope you have right now. Rush hour is for standing.

And don’t even get me started on people who don’t move down inside the carriage.

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2. You think you’ll spend weekend meandering around central London – but you won’t. So choose a borough you love to live in. 

Sometimes Pad and I wake up on the weekend with the best intentions. We make elaborate Saturday plans whilst still under our duvet, about weekends in Zone 1, where we get all cultured and visit somewhere momentous. But then we get up, and decide, actually, to just nip down the road to the pub. Or go to Balham’s farmers market. Or take a walk to the local park. I kind of like it that way though.

Truth is – living in London is just like living anywhere else. You won’t always want to get on the tube to central London. Sometimes you just want to mill around Zone 2 or 3 like a local with other people just as lazy as you.

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3. THE CINEMA COSTS SO MUCH MONEY. 

Want to watch a movie?

That’s fine – there are loads of cinemas in central London. Just be prepared to travel to zone three (ish) if you want to pay anywhere near normal prices. Where I grew up it was £3.50 for a cinema ticket. In London I’m lucky if I can grab a ticket for under £13. And don’t even think about watching something in 3D. ARE YOU CRAZY?

4. You never know true horror – until you’ve flat hunted in London. It’s even more hellish if you’re flat hunting with a time constraint. 

Coming back from New Zealand, and dealing with the London property market again was an eye opener. I HATE FLAT HUNTING. I hate it even more than usual in London. It is a shark pool.

But, Yes, you will find that perfect flat, or room, eventually.

But…. No, it won’t still be around tomorrow when you’ve slept on the decision. If you like it – take it before the estate agent has had chance to shut the front door. Because otherwise (if it really is that good) someone else is going to snap it up.

When people say flat hunting in London is bad, they are being nice. When people say it is hell on earth, they are being truthful.

The boys doing a solid job of moving furniture.

The boys doing a solid job of moving furniture.

5. You won’t live on your own in a one-bed flat like Bridget Jones.

No one can afford to live in a one-bed flat on their own. Not really. Unless it’s a studio in zone 3. Maybe.

Instead, you’ll live in flat-shares. Until you find that wonderful person you want to be with – and then you’ll cram all your stuff into a one-bed flat until you both get promotions and can afford something a bit bigger.

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6. You think you’ll be home by 5.30pm.

You won’t. But it not necessarily a bad thing. What with after work drinks, or the gym, or that trip to the super market and all that nice stuff, you’ll be getting home around 7/8pm usually.

And even if you cut all those things out, and leave work at 5pm on the dot – did you factor in the commute? Because that’s at least another half hour ether side whether you like it or not.

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7. Black cabs are for the rich and the frivolous.

Unless you have a company credit card – I doubt you’re getting black cabs. Although saying that, there are a few smart apps out there that offer discount fares – like Uber.

But yes, taxis are a luxury. And aside from those exceptions, you’ll probably only get in one if you missed the last tube home, and you don’t know which night bus to get on.

Or if it’s really raining (like bad ass rain) and you just got your hair done. I’m totally guilty of that last example.

 8. You will want to cry every single time someone who lives outside of London tells you their rent. 

Because it’s like a slap in the face.

“YOU HAVE 3 BEDROOMS A GARDEN AND A UNICORN?! FOR £350 a MONTH!??!” That’s kind of how the conversation tends to go.

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9. Same goes for beers. And all alcoholic drinks in general. 

You go up North for a weekend. Beer is £2 a pint. Cocktails are only £3.

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

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10. You think you’ll go on long jogs and wistful walks in Hyde Park. You won’t. 

You’ll live so far away from Hyde Park – it won’t even be an option that crosses your mind. Instead you’ll jog around your local common and do wistful walks to and from the tube station.

But of course, the good always out weighs the bad… 

– Most interesting and culturally diverse city in the UK

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– More career opportunities and exciting companies to work for than any other city in the UK

– Amazing history and beautiful buildings on every corner

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– So many incredible restaurants, you could literally eat out somewhere new every day for a year

Roast, Borough Market

Roast, Borough Market

– There is always something open (Sunday at 6pm? There is still somewhere you can buy tea!)

– More buses, trains and tubes than you can shake a stick at. There is no ‘every hour’ schedule here. It’s every 15 minutes at THE VERY MOST.

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– Theatre! So much theatre!

– Art! So much art!

– You’d struggle to find views better than the ones you can find here.

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– A different type of nightlife for every type of person and every mood.

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– Parks! So many parks! (Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park, Clapham Common, St James’ Park, Battersea Park – being my favourites)

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– Taxis might cost a lot – but at least there is always one nearby should you need it.

– Lots of Airports (so many, I don’t even know the exact number, but I think it’s 5/6) getting you pretty much where-ever you might need to be.

– There is always something happening, and something new to see and do.

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– When it’s sunny – it’s the best place on earth

What do you think of London? :) 

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

A Photo For Everywhere I Went in 2013.

2013 has without a doubt been the best year of my life. We’ve been to more places than I can count, so here they all are and I’m hoping I haven’t missed anywhere out… Also, these aren’t in any particular order!

One photo for each place we visited :) I’ve tried to choose the photo that summed the place up for me, or the photo or moment I remembered most.

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Paris

Queenstown view gondola blue

Queenstown, NZ

London shard sunshine clouds

London, UK

NYC blue building greenwich

New York City, USA

Girl in grand canyon sunshine

The Grand Canyon, USA

Bellagio fountains las vegas blogger

Las Vegas, USA

Hong Kong slow shutter speed skyline

Hong Kong

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Phuket, Thailand

grand palace bangkok summer sunshine

Bangkok, Thailand

wild elephant koh samui thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand

marina bay sands sparkle singapore

Singapore

thailand beach sunshine aqua longboat

Angthong National Park, Thailand

kuala lumpur traders hotel view sunset

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

byron bay beach sunset surfers australia

Byron Bay, Oz

gold coast surfers paradise ocean beach

Surfers Paradise, Oz

brisbane evening night time reflection

Brisbane, Oz

noosa australia beach wave surfing

Noosa, Oz

fraser island australia sunset beach

Fraser Island, Oz

hamilton island parrots birds view reef hotel

Hamilton Island, Oz

great ocean road view mist storm

The Great Ocean Road, Oz

woman wetsuit great barrier reef ocean

The Great Barrier Reef, Oz

view from plane cairns clouds

Cairns, Oz

melbourne in the evening with slow shutter speed

Melbourne, Oz

surfers on the beach in New Zealand

Christchurch, NZ

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The Blue Mountains, Oz

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Bondi, Oz
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Sydney, Oz

 For more memories, and my other travel highlights from 2013, take a read of this blog post, about my favourite moments from the year.

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

What has your 2013 highlight been?

A Very British Christmas

Last Christmas, Pad and I spent the day on Queenstown beach, sipping cider and wearing santa hats (more on that here). Yet the whole time (as amazing as the sunshine was) we couldn’t help but miss the cold, the snow and the British way of doing things (i.e. sitting in front of the TV, having eaten way too much food, watching cheesy movies and getting slowly drunk. And don’t forget the celebratory nap time). 

This year, now back in the UK (and also – now having a newly found addiction to Instagram – something I spent last Christmas without….!) I’ve been talking lots of photos (I’m not exaggerating, this is an awfully long blog post!) gleefully snapping away anything and everything festive. I’m pretty sure Pad is going to be happy when Christmas is over, if only for the reason I won’t be pestering him with my iPhone anymore.

So here is my unofficial ‘Instagram’ guide to a Very British Christmas. 

OK, so the 1st of December rolls around… TIME TO GET A TREE AND A WREATH. I refuse to wait any longer to get my tree up, it has to be the 1st of December. To be honest – if it didn’t seem so keen and weird I would probably put it up in November. We got the wreath from Balham market for £10, and I love it. I’m trying to figure out if I can get away with keeping it up all year round. Because it makes the front door look so lovely

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This is how our tree looked on Christmas Eve, with everyone’s presents underneath, I was so proud of it! We spent Christmas in my new home in Balham, so my mum and sister came over for a couple of days. Pad and I have worked so hard to turn it into a home – and it really felt like the perfect place to spend Christmas.

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How good are baubles?

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Below are some photos of our Christmas dinner. The cooking side of things was relatively stress-free to be honest – as we prepped most things the night before. We’ve never been big fans of Turkey in our family, so we opted for Chicken, Beef and Pork Belly instead. We had mini roasts of all three, so we could just pick and choose.

My little sister was in charge of the roasties, and by ‘in charge’ I mean she was running a army regiment in the kitchen, with absolute precision. As expected, they were a success (big sigh of relief there).

She also managed to get through a record breaking 6 Yorkshire puddings. So good effort all round.

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For dessert we boycotted the traditional Christmas pudding, and went for a gingerbread house instead. It was pretty spectacular.

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Film of choice from Christmas day? Despicable Me of course…. What else!?

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Another big part of our Christmas is family – so we went up North to spend time with family on Boxing day. As with any family, we’re a little dysfunctional in parts, but the love is there. The ‘kids’ of the family (I say kids, but we’re all older than 20 now….!) are all lucky to be a similar age, so there is always lots of talk (and argue) about.

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I’m trying to think of a witty word for “Christmas hat selfies” but nothing comes to mind. Suggestions on a postcard! 😉

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Another lovely part of Christmas is also winter walks! Pad, my mum, sister and I went exploring Greenwich for the day – taking a walk around Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market and Greenwich Park. I’ve been to greenwich a couple of times before – but never had a proper look round the place before then. It’s so gorgeous! Especially the amazing views from the top of the park (for sure worth the big walk up there).

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Love these stunning paper roses from Greenwich market…. Need to remember to go back again and actually buy a few next time.

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Finally, my last ‘christmassy’ thing of the year was my first ever football game! I’ve never been to a match before (like ever) so it was pretty awesome to go watch my boyfriends team play. For him, it’s a yearly tradition, so I was really excited to go to a game and see what all the fuss was about. I loved it!

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Oh take it back. I have one more photo. Here is a couple selfie of our christmas jumpers. Yes, we totally jumped on that bandwagon this year.

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What are your Christmas traditions? What would you miss the most if you were spending Christmas abroad?

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My Favourite Moments from 2013

2013 has been a pretty good year for me…. after months and months of planning and organising our big round the world trip – 2013 was the year we finally got to set off and do it. Because it was such an incredible year, I wanted to put some of our highlights down on paper (virtual paper!). So here are my favourite moments from 2013 (in no particular order I might add!).

Storm chasing in Hong Kong 

Whilst we were in Hong Kong, it never seemed to stop raining. One particular day though, as we boarded the Star Ferry, on our way back to our hotel – we could actually see the storm approaching. You can see it in the photo below, and from the moment that photo was taken, it took about 5 minutes to reach us on the boat. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen or felt rain like it. It literally came out of nowhere, and then just pelted down for about an hour at full force. Pad and I were in absolute awe of it, and although we attempted to shelter for awhile, in the end we just legged it into the rain and decided to risk it. Needless to say – we got absolutely drenched.

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Waking up to this view in Hong Kong

We wanted to book ourselves a room with a view when we were in Hong Kong (because as far as views go – Hong Kong has a pretty incredible one on offer) so we opted for a suite at at The Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. It was so stunning, and the room was everything we’d hoped for. The view from our window is what you can see in the photo below – and it was just perfect. Waking up (and going to sleep) with that outlook was just incredible.

For more photos of gorgeous Hong Kong, click here.

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Winning (and gambling) at The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Now, Pad will claim it was his idea to walk away from the table when we did (whatever…) but whoever’s idea it was – we went away from the Casino $200 up. If only we’d been as lucky in Las Vegas a few months later….! It was literally like we couldn’t stop winning… I think the old man next us was our lucky mascot. Definitely an amazing way to end our time in Singapore.

To read more about my time in Singapore, click here.

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Having a private luxury pod on the Singapore Flyer

We were gifted some complimentary tickets for The Singapore Flyer by their PR team, and expected to rock up and experience the regular tourist attraction. What actually happened, was much different! We were chauffeured through to a private entrance, got to skip the entire queue, and walked straight into our very own luxury pod at sunset. It was pretty amazing – and even more so because it was a complete surprise. It was also the first time we’d both tried the famous Singapore Sling – and The Flyer was the perfect place to try it for the first time!

For my full review of The Singapore Flyer, click here. 

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Our 5 days on The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was one of our last stops in Australia, and after a month of hostels and budgeting – we splashed out a little when we finally arrived at Surfers Paradise. Our hotel room overlooks the beautiful rivers, and every night the sunset was just beyond beautiful. We had planned to cram our 5 days there full of theme parks and activities – but when we arrived we realised all we wanted to do was relax and take it easy. We drank a lot of cider on that balcony, we (attempted) our very own Oz BBQ (and failed miserably!), we ate a lot of frozen yoghurt, had the best caesar salad ever, and we spent hours laying on the beach doing absolutely nothing.

For more information about The Gold Coast, click here. 

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Learning to surf in Noosa

We hadn’t really prioritised surfing to be honest, but a girl we met at our hostel recommended it to us – so we decided (on a whim) to give it a try. I think we were both a bit apprehensive looking back – but within 20 minutes in the water we were both in love! Learning to surf was so much fun, and both us have agreed several times since, that it absolutely was one of the best things we ever decided to do. I know that Pad is beyond excited to give it another go as soon as we’re anywhere near another beach – so next year should be much the same! If you are looking to learn surfing, Noosa is such a beautiful spot to do it and quite an appealing spot too. The waters are warm, not to deep and it is home to Australia’s best surf school!

Click here for info about our first surfing lesson in Noosa.

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Seeing The Great Barrier Reef

I can’t really put this into words. But if you’ve been – you’ll know. I’ve never before felt so small, so insignificant and yet so free and inspired. I know that sounds super lame-ass. But you really can’t understand until you’ve been and seen this whole other world under the waves. We didn’t even get the best weather for it (I suffered pretty horrendous seasickness whilst on our boat) and yet, you still can’t avoid the beauty and the peacefulness that lies underneath the waves.

It was bizarre actually. Above the water there was wind, gales and you were being thrown about, but then once you were underneath the sea it was completely different. Pad and I spent our time gliding around under the water holding hands (otherwise we would’ve drifted apart!) trying to point out all the amazing creatures. At one point this turtle swam up literally a few centimetres in front of us, and I got to reach out and touch it’s shell. That right there, was just amazing.

To read the full blog post about our day on the reef, click here.

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Introducing these guys to Fergburger (and other things!)

During our last few weeks in Queenstown, two of my very best friends came and stopped with us in New Zealand for a few weeks. Sharing our new home with them was so much fun – and it was great to share all these amazing things we’d done and found with them too. This included Fergburger, Flame (Ben’s face when he saw the size of the mixed grill was hilarious!), Fat Badgers (which we had like 3 times?!), and the gorgeous Kelvin Heights (where we finally jumped in the lake).

More about all that, by clicking here! 

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Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown

This was such a treat, and really was a once in a lifetime experience. Onsen Hot Pools are located a little way out of Queenstown (about a 10 minute drive through the mountains) but worth the trip – especially for those who want to do some relaxing after all the adrenaline activities. We went for the evening package, and has champagne, candles and even a little picnic hamper. Perfection!

For a full review (and lot’s more photos!) of The Onsen Hot Pools, click here. 

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NZ Road trip with Moogan

For Paddy’s birthday, we rented a car and explored our little bit of the South Island. We crammed so much in, and it was so much fun just zipping around, playing music a bit too loud and finding all those hidden places we’d never have found without a car. The reason he looks so happy below – is because of how modern and swish the car was. The previous time we had rented a car in NZ, we’d been stuck with a car that was about 30 years old… and still had a cassette player. One of my most hilarious memories from this road trip was Puzzling World in Wanaka. They have this one room on there where you feel like you’re walking up but actually you’re walking down. It’s weird – and difficult to explain. Anyway, the aim of this room is to (quite simply) get to the other side without falling over. We’d both fallen in to the final wall and were already laughing, when this old Chinese man turned the corner and mouthed “help me!” with all seriousness. All three of us burst out laughing and we were still laughing out it an hour later.

For more on our road tripping stuff, click here. 

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New Years Eve in Sydney

I can’t think of a better way we could’ve started 2013. The night was perfect, the view was breathtaking and the experience was just priceless. I’ll never forget it – and for anyone even contemplating spending NYE in Sydney, I would just say DO IT. We spent the night at Sydney Harbourlights and it was the best money we’ve ever spent.

For more info about an incredible night, click here. 

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Finally seeing the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas

I loved Las vegas, and my favourite part was (of course) the Bellagio Fountains. Not much to say other than WOW. Yes they’re touristy, but they’re so magical too! I’d been so excited to see them, and they didn’t disappoint at all. We’re hoping to go back to Las vegas in 2014 – so I hopefully won’t have to wait too long to see them again!

Click here to read more about Las Vegas. 

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The Grand Canyon

Another thing I’d been dying to see, needless to say, the Grand Canyon didn’t disappoint either. I mean…. how can it?! We went with Pink Jeep Tours and everything about the day was just fantastic. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.

For more info on our day in The Grand Canyon, click here. 

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Putting our padlock on Padlock Bridge

Paris was our last destination of the year, and putting our Padlock on the bridge seemed really fitting. We’ve been through a lot this year, and that seemed like such a perfect way to round things off.

Click here to see more photos from Padlock Bridge in Paris.

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Moving into our new London home 

After months of being on the road earlier in the year, we were both so excited to be settled into a home again. We’ve decided to settle in Balham (South West London) and our home is so gorgeous. Moving day has definitely been a highlight, and every day since too.

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