A Walk in Central Park – NYC

These photos are about 18 months old now – but I just love them so I wanted to put them on here. They were taken during our trip to NYC in November 2011, and I just love the autumn colours and gorgeous clear skies. It was a perfect New York autumn day, cold but not freezing – with little wind and clear skies. Actually, I’ve only ever been to NYC during October / November time – so it’ll be interesting to see how the city changes in the summer – when we stay there in a few months. For once we might be able to actually sunbath in the park!

NYC autumn central park

NYC autumn central park

The spot above (and below) might be one of my favourites in the whole park. I love seeing the buildings in the background, and the reflection in the water and the gorgeous autumn colours of the trees too. It’s hard to be in awe as you look at a view like that!

NYC autumn central park
NYC autumn central park

Don’t ever go in the park without taking a carriage ride! It’s relatively cheap (don’t forget to include the drivers tip though in your price) and it lasts for about 20 minutes. You don’t go through very far into the park, but it’s still a lovely experience and one of the cute cliched touristy things you just have to do. Pad actually had an allergic reaction to the horse shortly after this photo was taken though – so he spent the rest of the day sneezing!

NYC autumn central park

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One of my absolute favourite photos ever, and definitely of this trip. I have this as my background image on my computer. It just reminds me of being happy in my favourite place.  Getting up that rock wasn’t easy though – considering this park is surrounded by massive building and a completely urban landscape – you’d be surprised how wild the terrain inside the park can feel.

NYC autumn central park

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I Freaking Love Photo Booths. Part 1.

I love photos. But more than that, I love instant photos. Photo Booths are my favourite thing. In the whole world.

There is this one little photo booth in Queenstown Cinema (now, the first thing you have to understand about Queenstown Cinema is it’s like a 1980’s throwback). It has these little curtains around it, and it’s only $4 to get 6 photos. I make Paddy go in it with me every time we see a film.

It has actually inspired me though – and when we set off travelling in 6 weeks, I’m going to try and find a photo booth in every city we visit. Then at the end of the trip I’m going to cut them all up and fram them in a big frame. I love my photos, but there’s something a bit special about a photo booth picture. Then we’ll have this awesome souvenir showing how we’ve changed (etc) whilst travelling (I’m guessing the main change will be our tan).

Here are a few so far….

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Things we’ve learnt whilst travelling.

I know it’s cliche to sit here and say that travelling has been a journey of discovery – but for once – such a cliche is actually pretty true.

Cheesy, but true. 

When faced with bug bites, weird hostels, flight delays, awful landings, getting lost, heat waves (and a number of other things) you really learn a lot about yourself. Pad and I haven’t even really begun our travelling yet – I mean, yes, we’re in New Zealand and we’ve travelled around NZ and a bit of Oz – but all our major adventuring is still to come. Even saying that though, there is so much we’ve learnt about ourselves (and about each other) and about travelling in general.

Here are some of those things. 

I pack too many clothes.

It’s a problem. I’m trying to cut down but it’s like an addiction. We only have 20kgs when we go travelling in a month…. which isn’t a lot when you consider I had 32kgs coming out to NZ. I still don’t know how I got away with that at the airport.

Food is just as important as sight-seeing.

In Sydney Pad proclaimed one evening, that he was consuming “the best kebab I’ve ever had”. Which was quite a momentous occasion. The thing is, we love food. And when you’re abroad the food is just as much an experience as all the other stuff. One of the main things we’re excited for when we travel is the food in the USA. All those ribs and brisket and pulled pork. Yum.

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A traveller and a backpacker are two different things. 

We are travellers, not backpackers. And I’ve started to realise that they are very different things. What’s the difference? Well, to a certain extent we’ve planned what we’re going to be doing, we have flights booked and we’ve can’t miss them. We won’t be sleeping on the beach to save cash (as awesome as that sounds) and we’d choose a private room in a hostel over a dorm any day.  We also don’t mind splashing out on a bit of luxury here and there, if it means our experience is enriched and we get a good nights sleep. I think maybe it’s a mind set, and although we’ll both be carrying backpacks around with us – backpackers we certainly aren’t. That’s not to say I don’t admire backpackers – it’s just a different way of travelling and a different way of seeing the world. Both ways equally as awesome and I don’t think it matters how you see the world and how you experience it – as long as you’re happy, having an awesome time and safe.

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DEET will save the world one day. 

As someone who gets eaten alive every time any kind of biting insect is around – my discovery of DEET has changed my life. I can’t wait to get to Thailand and be all “yeah mozzies, that’s right, you can’t get me anymore”. I’ve heard that DEET can be bad for you, but until there are tests proving it, I’ll be using it.

Don’t just pack ‘nice clothes’

As well as the nice clothe (dresses, shoes, swimwear, etc) – you need to pack sportswear too. Stock up on some decent trainers, some shorts, some comfy tops and cotton vests. You might not wear this kind of stuff at home, but you will wear it when you’re travelling and you’ll regret it if you don’t pack these basics.

Neither of us will willingly be uncomfortable.

Pad and I like to be comfortable and I think we’ve both learnt that comfort is worth the extra money – especially when you’re travelling. In Bondi Beach we stopped in a private double in the YHA, which was great (and surprisingly comfy) but the room had no air conditioning. The weather was scorching outside (we were there on the brink of a record breaking heatwave) and without AC the room was literally a sauna. I think we’d both agree that little comforts like this are worth the extra money now – especially after a few sleepless nights like we had there. Have you ever tried to sleep in a sauna? It’s hard.

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The sauna room in all it’s glory.

I’m an organisational FREAK.

Guilty. I don’t plan because it eases my mind (although that’s one of the reasons) but because I actually enjoy planning. Pad bought me a travel journal Moleskin for Christmas which now has every bit of research and planning you could ever wish for in it. I’ve even written in the book, that if lost, I’ll offer $100 as a reward. That’s how valuable it is to us now. I love planning and I’m a bit of a freak for it. Which is good really, because Pad isn’t. At all. So we strike a good balance.

I like maps and lists and tour books.

I like maps and lists and tour books.

A king-size bed is worth every extra penny you pay for it. 

In Auckland we stayed in the Sky City Casino and we had the biggest bed known to man. We’ve stayed in entire rooms in hostels, that weren’t as big as this bed. It was amazing.

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We’ll never have it all figured out.

Before I got the Moleskin, I was constantly rewriting our plans on paper, again and again. I’d keep crossing places off, finding new ones and then starting the whole planning process again. It became a bit of a joke between us. But the thing is, it just goes to show – you’ll never have it all figured out. You can plan and plan, but the thing is, you never know for sure what to expect until you’re there. And even then, things might change.

WiFi is currency. 

In New Zealand and Australia, you’ll come across really random areas, where people are all sat with laptops and iPads. The other day we were walking in Queenstown and there was this girl skyping someone on a bench in the middle of the high street. She must have found some WiFi signal and decided to take advantage of it. This is common behaviour  and the more you travel the more you start to view WiFi as currency.

“Oh, your crappy cafe has FREE WIFI?! I’M IN!”

We always forget the suncream.

It’s a problem. We’re working on it. One day we’ll learn.

It’s OK just to sit and do nothing. 

A lot fo the time when you’re travelling you feel the pressure to be out, doing things and seeing things. But to be honest, a lot of the time, some of the nicest memories I have of a place is when we’ve done absolutely nothing. In NYC a couple of years ago one of our favourite things to do was just sit and people watch. In Bondi Beach I spent 4 hours sat on our roof terrace in a beanbag reading. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit and do nothing.

How I usually am, when we arrive in a new place.

How I usually am, when we arrive in a new place.

Money needs thinking about, and then re-thinking about.

Budgetting is one of those things that requires a bit of time and attention. Before we came to New Zealand, we had an idea about rent, and how much we’d budget for food, utilities and various other things. But New Zealand and Australia are both very expensive (especially for every day basics and food shopping) which we didn’t really count on or predict. In New Zealand I pay the equivalent of £4.50 for a bottle of Shampoo that at home would cost me £1.50 or less. It’s annoying – but there aren’t any alternatives and it’s just something you need to adjust to and make sure you have the flexibility to adjust to as well.

We’re pretty good at this relationship thing. 

You know that scene in Sex and The City when Charlotte and her husband get food poisoning  and in a weird way it’s kind of romantic, because they take care of each other? Well I spent almost all of January sick with stomach flu, and not once did Pad complain about taking care of me. I was a miserable mess  but he didn’t once make me feel guilty about it. That’s a real relationship test and we definitely pulled through it. Earlier on in January we had a terrible landing into Queenstown (actually we first had a “missed landing”) which shook me right down to my core. I was a crying wreck on the flight, and I genuinely wouldn’t have got through it without Pad. Travelling tends to throw up all sorts of challenges, and it’s nice to know we’re strong enough to get through them.

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Pad will always look after the passports. 

And the tickets. And the boarding passes.

Bad weather doesn’t need to ruin things. 

When we went up to Bay of Islands we were pretty sure we were going to get this incredible sunny weather for the entire week, but instead we got the tail-end of a tropical storm happening in the Cook Islands. The weather was rubbish – but it didn’t ruin our trip. If it starts raining, go dance in it. If there’s a heat wave, go jump in the ocean.

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Cities have registered taxi cabs for a reason. 

We learnt this lesson in NYC, when we mistakenly got into a private cab instead of a yellow one at the airport (rookie mistake). Everything was fine, and the taxi man was very nice, until he turned round and asked us for a ridiculous amount of money for the taxi journey. We paid it, assuming it was the standard amount. Only afterwards did we find out all taxis have a fixed fee from the airport and that fixed fee was much, much lower than what we’d paid. Lesson learnt.

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Summer road-tripping in New Zealand

New Zealand is STUNNING in the summertime. So we’ve been making the most of it. I love the south island and it’s epic landscapes, and beautiful mountains so any excuse to get out and explore them sounds good to me. I would advise anyone wanting to explore the south island (especially Otago and the Queenstown area) to rent a car – even if it’s just for a day or two. You can see so much in the car, and you often stumble across hidden gems that you’d never have seen if you’d been in a coach or airplane.

Anyway here are some photos!

These (above) were taken near Pisa Mountain, on the drive from Queenstown to Wanaka. The view from up there is beautiful, you can see the valley stretch right in front of you all the way to Lake Wakatipu. If you’re cruising along the mountain roads, it’s pretty easy to stop off at little view points like these, and it’s definitely worth getting out for a view like this!

Of course, as with all roadtrips, before you head out make sure you’ve got the number of a local repair firm, tyre shop or engineer – especially in NZ where it’s so sparse and isolated in places. You don’t want to get stuck!

We also stopped off in the tiny town of Arrow Town, which was originally a gold miners settlement – in the gold rush that populated the Otago area around 150 years ago. To be honest, there isn’t much there, but it’s worth a coffee and an ice-cream and a quick walk around. It actually reminded me of a little western cowboy town you might see in an old movie, it felt a little out of place so close to Queenstown!

We then ventured over to Wanaka – somewhere which (before we’d visited) we heard many times likened to Queenstown. In all honesty, I don’t really see the similarity, sure they both have big lakes and mountain views – but the atmosphere and vibe of the two places are hugely different. I don’t know if it’s my overwhelming love of Queenstown that makes me biast – but I don’t think Wanaka compares to Queenstown in the slightest. If you were weighing the two up against each other unsure of which to stay in – I’d go for Queenstown every time. Queenstown is magical.

The weird photos above were taken at Puzzling World in Wanaka. It’s about (NZ) $18 per person to enter, and it’s a fun way to spend the afternoon. In particular there is this balance room (pictured above) where you literally just find it impossible to balance or walk around. Pad and I both nearly feel head over toes multiple times. It’ll completely mess with your mind! At one point, Pad and I were near the exit, and this Chinese tourist entered at the top, poked his head round the wall, and just said “help me” and all three of us burst out laughing. It’s definitely an experience, and unlike any room you’ve ever been in before.

The rest of the photos were taken around Queenstown at various points from the last two weeks. Queenstown is surprisingly big, and we’ve really tried to explore as much of it as possible recently. One of our favourite spots is Kelvin Heights, on the small beaches near the golf course. You feel a million world’s away from the bustling town centre, and yet it’s pretty easy to get to. Don’t bother going by taxi or bus though (that’ll take 25+ minutes, as it’s right around the lake) instead, go in the water taxi.

 This one was taken from the beach in Kelvin heights. I think it’s one of my favourite photos so far, because it just sums up how gorgeous the place is completely. Pad and I actually walk right across the the hill you can see in the background (and further) with very little water on a very hot day. After I got the the brink of dehydration we gave up, and headed to the road to catch the bus home! It’s a much longer walk than it looks, especially in 30 degree heat!

And of course, no summer in New Zealand would be complete without a boat trip…. So we went on one.

And last but not least, some more random but lovely photos I took… The sunset ones from our balcony might be my favourite, I think I’ll get them framed when we’re back in London. Even now as I’m typing there is a stunning sunset outside, so much so you feel bad for watching TV – because the view outside almost rivals it for entertainment. I’ve never known anywhere to be so vivid at sunset than here.

The stories behind the photographs.

I love taking photos – and growing up I think I used to annoy people at times with my incessant need to take photos all the time. As a traveller though – this is something which definitely pays off – as months (even years) after your trip, you can look through and have all these incredible memories flood back to you.

Sometimes though, there is a much more interesting story behind a photograph, than what you’d initially think. I was browsing through a couple of photos from Sydney today, and it was funny thinking of all the stories behind some of the photos I took – even though at first glance they look like just your average holiday snap. Anyway, this got me thinking – so I decided to trawl through some much older photos too (some from travelling, some not) to see what I could find. So here they are… photos and stories.

On first glance this photo looks a bit rubbish. It’s all blurred and it’s not really in focus at all. But this was taken exactly at midnight NYE as we watched the Sydney fireworks display infront of us. We’d been planning it for so long, and it was such an awesome night, that it doesn’t even matter if the photo is rubbish.

This photo was taken during our trip to NYC in 2011. We’d been walking around somewhere central and came across this random group of girls all waiting around this door. In NYC you’re always expecting to run into someone famous – so I asked who these kids were waiting for and they told me they were expecting Robert Pattinson to arrive soon. Now, I don’t even like him that much, and I frown upon the Twilight movies – but still, it’d be cool to see him, right? So we waiting in-line for like 30 minutes seeing if he’d show up. He didn’t.

Before I lived in London, day trips to London were like the best thing ever. Emily, Lizzie and myself arranged a day trip to the big city one summer and it was awesome. However. Please note the colour of my hair. BLONDE. Except the blonde was awful and didn’t sut me at all. So for the whole day I took all my photos in black and white. I know that’s ridiculous but it’s true. The next day I dyed my hair back brown. Lesson learnt.

This is probably the most hilarious photos I’ve ever taken. Not really because it’s even that funny – but because I remember how much we laughed when we noticed it. I think it still remains one of our family’s in-jokes. Grace and Megan I’m talking to you.

This photo isn’t really anything special when you first look at it. Just a couple of shadows. It’s actually the first photo I ever took of Pad and I though, so pretty special to me. I remember how annoying my bag was too (it was fringed and the little fringes would fall out in random places, like a breadcrumb trail). It was taken in Trafalgar Sq, one of our favourite places even now.

This photo was taken one NYE, when myself and lovely girlies decided we’d stop in instead of go out. We decided to do some kind of “ready steady cook” kind of thing and each of us brought ingredients and different parts of the meal. It was all going very well, but both Philippa and Marcelle spent the night with food poisoning. I thought I’d got away with it though and escaped the food poisoning (which was lucky – as I had a flight the next day) but I had no such luck. My food poisoning kicked in the next day and I spent a night throwing up in the airport. But look at us here, all happy and blissfully unaware of what would come.

Taken in the Oman in the middle east, this was taken after hours of being thrown around the back of a 4×4 jeep. I think Bekah and I just need some fresh air, and also to feel solid ground for 5 minutes.

About 5 minutes before this photo was taken I had been sobbing to myself. Not that you’d be able to tell! This was taken at the top of a big hill in Bay of Islands, NZ – a hill which we’d had to (practically) climb and hike up barefoot. It took about 20 minutes, but was probably the steepest thing I’ve ever walked up. For the duration of said climb, I had been certain we were nearly at the top – but the top never came. So I cried. I cried for the top to come. It did eventually, and when I got up there it dawned on me how much of a loser I was. The view was worth it, promise. And I’ll try never to be so pathetic again when faced with a steep incline.

This was taken in the Vatican, Rome. The holiday itself, was one of my favourite holidays ever but I think Philippa would agree this day was our low-point. I had made a bad footwear choice (this get’s icky, so stop reading if you’re not feeling it) as Rome is covered in cobble stones – and flimsy footwear just doesn’t cut it there. My shoes were super flimsy and the blisters I got spoke for themselves. They had personalities, names and professions and lives of their own. Anyway – it all got too much – so I popped my blister in the Vatican courtyard. Even typing that feels wrong. But I did. I’m sorry Mr Pope. This photo was taken just afterwards.

This is the best travel game ever. And I think during our skiing holiday we were all on the brink of addiction with this game. Literally, I think I enjoyed the game more than the skiing. It’s called Bananagrams incase anyone was interested. Buy it.

I still get teased for this photo and it’s one of the biggest running jokes between Pad and I. The night we took it was at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, and was one of my favourite dates we’ve ever had. And, I don’t mind that I look stupid, because I know how much (on many occasions) it’s made him laugh. I wish I’d bought that hat though.

 

Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown

Yesterday we rented a car, so decided to drive up to the Onsen Hot Pools in the evening. It was Pad’s birthday – so we wanted to something a bit special and a bit different – and this was certainly that. The pools are located in Arthurs Point, about a 15/20 minute drive north of Queenstown (it’s pretty easy to get to) which is remote enough to feel secluded – but close enough to town for it to be an easy drive. It’d probably be about $25 in a taxi I reckon – so not too bad if you have someone to split the cost with.

The Onsen Hot Pool is probably the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done – not to mention one of the most romantic too. I’d definitely recommend it to basically anyone – if you’re a group of friends travelling then it’s a great place to hang out and relax for an hour or so, but if you’re a couple it’s a lovely romantic way to spend a couple of hours together.

Basically, the hot pools are fresh-water private hot-tubs (although you can turn the jets off if you want) which are located in their own little private room, which has a re-tractable roof. It’s pretty perfect really – you have this incredible view, and massive hot-tub all to yourself, and even candles and aromatherapy if you specify when booking. You’re not overlooked either – in fact the only thing overlooking you is a big mountain range and the Shotover river.

Our booking was at 9pm, so when we arrived it was just starting to go dark (as you can see above). By the time we left if was completely dark – so it was nice to see the pool in both settings. There are changing rooms just outside in the corridor  and you can borrow lovely fluffy towels from reception too – there’s even a shower in your hot tub room – incase you want to cool off and then jump back in (which we did a few times).

We had the roof retracted the entire time, because that’s what makes it so unique I think, and it was lovely being in the hot water, but having a cool breeze from the mountains at the same time. The pools are huge too – there was only 2 of us in there – but I think you could easily fit 4/5. They’re so much deeper than the average hot-tubs too, and length wise I could stretch out and just about touch the edges (and I’m 5ft2 ish).

For anyone thinking of booking I’d probably recommend having a similar time-spot to us, it was lovely watching the sun go down, and having about 30 minutes of pure darkness outside too. As you can see – the room looks absolutely magical in the darkness and the candles are so romantic too! For any guys out there wanting to impress a special lady – this is without a doubt one of the most romantic things you could in the whole of New Zealand. It’s not too expensive either – we were pleasantly surprised at the price – considering how luxurious the entire experience feels.

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7 weeks and counting. This is what we have planned!

It’s less than 7 weeks now, until we set off on our round the world trip – which is so exciting! We’ve been living in New Zealand for about 5 months now, and the whole point of being here was not only to explore New Zealand, but also to save up for an epic trip the following year…. which we’ve done!

We’ve managed to save up now, just how much we needed, and so we’ve even begun booking hotels and flights – which is kind of awesome. It’s so satisfying (after months of planning and daydreaming) to be booking places at last. In fact, in the last 2 days, I think Pad and I have booked around 5 flights, and about 5 different hotels too.

We’re incredibly lucky too though, as we’re partnering up with several companies, such as the wonderful Flight Centre, Hostel Bookers, Greyhound Australia and Asia Rooms, who are all participating to our trip in one way or the other, providing accommodation or transport. We’re feeling very lucky!

So here is our itinerary as it stands:

* Christchurch: 27th – 29th March

Our last stop in New Zealand, where we get to catch up with the lovely Hannah Livingston, and meet her beautiful baby boy!

*  Australia: 29th March – 29th April 

We’ll be stopping off at multiple destinations, with the help of Greyhound Australia and Flight Centre here. These will include, Melbourne and The Great Ocean Road, Sydney, Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef, Airline Beach and The Whitsunday Islands, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, Noosa, Brisbane, Surfer’s Paradise and The Gold coast and finally Byron Bay. We’ll be mixing it up accommodation wise in Australia, sometimes stopping in hostels (thanks to the lovely Hostel Bookers) and sometimes opting for hotels.

* Singapore: 29th April – 4th May

Stopping with my awesome family out there, with plans to consume lots of amazing Hawker food. This is one of my favourite SE Asian cities, so I’m looking forward to showing Pad around, who is a Singapore newbie.

A souvenir from my last trip to Singapore. Hoping I can drag Pad into one of these crazy photo machines.

* Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): 4th May – 6th May

Booked this as a whim the other day, as neither of us have ever been before and although it’ll be a quick visit, we’ll cram as much in as we can. We’re stopping in a suite in a luxury hotel and I literally can’t wait. We get complimentary breakfast, complimentary high-tea in the afternoon and free cocktails in the evening. I was sold as soon as I read about the cocktails.

The Shangri-la Traders Hotel, where we’ll be stopping!

* Koh Samui (Thailand): 6th May – 11th May

A relaxing beach break for us after all the quick, city stops. Asia Rooms are helping us out with our accommodation here, and we’re excited to see what they have in store for us. Basically, this stop-off will be full of pool days, beach days and maybe some elephants too. And monkeys. Oh, and we wanted to try out deep sea fishing.

* Phuket (Thailand): 11th May – 15th May

Another island resort in Thailand, but this time stopping in the (much more lively) town of Patong. I’m sure it’ll be world’s away from Koh Samui, but we’re after variety and we can’t wait to try out the nightlife here. We’ve got a beautiful spa hotel booked right in the centre of town, thanks to www.hotelsphuket.travel  so we’re all sorted for this location! Which means we can get a nice massage to cure the hangover…!

* Bangkok (Thailand): 15th May – 20th May

Again, the awesome Asia rooms are hooking us up for accommodation here – and I’m super excited for Bangkok. I’ve been before briefly – but it’ll be Pad’s first time. I’m pretty sure his only knowledge of Bangkok is the Hangover 2 movie – so I’ll have to show him some other stuff the city has to offer too.

* Hong Kong: 20th May – 25th May 

This is one of the locations I’m most excited for as I’ve never been before, but always wanted too! This means it’ll be Pad’s turn to lead the way – as he visited about 5 years ago. Can’t wait to see the skyline, and take copious amounts of photos. And also… DISNEYLAND. Oh, and CHINESE FOOD!!

* Las Vegas (USA): 25th May – 1st June

If I said I was excited for Las Vegas, I’d be lying. I am so much more than excited. I am like Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa excited. I can’t wait. We’ve booked a luxury suite at the New York New York hotel for 4 of those nights, and then a room in the Venetian for the other 3. We agreed it’d be fully awesome to try out two different hotels, but to be honest, you could give me a bin to sleep in and as long as it’s Vegas I’ll be happy.

* New York City (USA): 1st June – 8th June

This is our last stop before heading home and we wanted to end the trip somewhere we both love. We’ll be stopping in an apartment just off Times Square, which we booked through AirBnB (highly recommended for anyone booking in a big city). We love NYC and can’t wait to spend our last bit of travelling there, especially as the last we went visited we had an amazing time.

 

Queenstown LUGE!!

New Zealand is Beautiful – especially in the summertime. And by far, some of the most fun I’ve had since living here was our day spent on the Queenstown Luge. WE LOVE THE LUGE! It’s basically an awesome go-cart track (but more awesome) with big slopes and scary bumps and (obviously) a gorgeous view too.

It’s hard not to get excited. Let’s face it. There are even free rides on the ski lift too (even if you’re not riding the Luge). And the helmets come in 4 colours. Amazing.

The restaurant at the top of the Gondola, is by far the best view in the whole of Queenstown. Maybe even New Zealand? Big claim – but I think it stands. It’s not too pricy either (considering how spectacular it actually is up there) and the buffet is yummy. If you don’t quite have the budget for the restaurant though, there are some super cute picnic tables outside (pictured!) where you can set up your own little al fresco dining experience. Two pretty good options, I think you’d agree?

I mean, even if you aren’t going to ride the Luge…. going up there for these incredible views is worth it. You can parachute down the hill back to town too – something I’m super excited to do sometime before we leave. I’m terrified of jumping from a plane (way too high for my liking) but the idea of jumping off the side of a hill doesn’t seem so drastic and scary. After living in QT a while, you actually get used to seeing the parachutes in the sky, and it becomes almost normal to see 3/4 flying above you as you have a coffee or walk round the shops.

 

6 Reasons You Should Love Dubai

Dubai, like many of the World’s major cities – is made of Marmite.

You either love it or hate it…. I love it.

We’re not in Dubai at the moment – but I thought this gorgeous city deserved to be written about. I’ve now been to Dubai many, many times; my Mum and my Godfather live out there (which is reason enough to visit) but the city always pulls me back for more for reasons than family, despite having been there countless times.

It’s a city that some people I know adore just as much as myself – but who others despise with a passion. Maybe they don’t like sand – who knows. Personally, I’ve been blinded by the lights of Dubai and have a rosy-attitude towards the place despite the construction work and sweltering heat. If you think you could manage to look beyond those two (teeny tiny) things – keep reading. Because you might fall head over heels for Dubai too.

This is why I love it there and why you should too:

1. The atmosphere

The difference in culture and atmosphere is something that unites a lot of Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, and something that will always draw me back to that part of the world. I was actually born in the Middle East (Kuwait) so there’s a part of me deep down, which almost feels like I’m being welcomed home as soon as I see dessert and hear the call to prayer. I love this part of the world; I love the heat, the dryness, the sand, the lifestyle and the people.

2. The glitter

All that glitters in gold in Dubai (sometime literally). The city is on an ever-lasting mission to improve itself and this is something I love. I love going back within months of my last trip – and seeing more changes to the skyline – the city is literally never the same one day to the next. They don’t do things by half here, they do everything to the full and the finished product is incredible.

3. The Fountains

The Dubai Fountains are probably my favourite spot in Dubai, and deserve a little spot in this post. There is nothing I love more than sitting outside in the evening at one of the restaurants by the Dubai Fountains and just watching the world go by. The Dubai Fountains are designed by the same guys who did the Bellagio ones, and are by all accounts just as epic. It’s truly incredible just to watch them, and watch people’s reactions to them.

4. The food

If my heart belongs in NYC, then my stomach belongs in Dubai. Oh good god the food in Dubai is so good. I love Middle Eastern food. Hummus. Tabouli. Salad. Bread. Wraps. Cheese. Yoghurt. Mint. Just give me all the food and I will be happy. If you can bear the heat in Dubai during the summer then heading to one of the evening Ramadan buffets is truly an experience. The more expensive you go – the more overwhelmed you’re going to be. We went to the one on Jumeriah Beach and they had about 7 different rooms of food to choose from. Just WOW.

5. The sunsets

The sun is so big in Dubai and so orange, you can’t really understand it until you’ve seen it. Some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in my life have been witnessed from the sandy shores of Dubai. They’re amazing.

 6. The variety

Dubai has something for pretty much everyone. If you like culture – there is the old part of the city full of temples, traditional fishing workers, markets and locals. If you want glitz and glamour there is the marina, the malls and the world-class hotels. If you want to relax by a pool and do nothing – you can do it (every hotel has a pool here). If you want adrenaline or adventure you can have that as well, there are sand dunes, skiing, sky-diving and snorkelling for that. If you want wild-life there are camels, aquariums and countless other animals. OH and if you want to spend your entire time eating the amazing food – they have lots of restaurants so you aren’t going to run out of options.

 

Skateboards and Hitch Hikers

There are two things in life, which I (being totally honest here) thought only existed in American movies. These two things are: Skateboarders and Hitch Hikers. Sure, I knew that both of these things were actually things (and not made up, like say – Unicorns) but growing up in the UK, you only ever get skateboarders in skate parks, and you only ever get hitch hikers – if they’re doing some charitable event across Europe.

In NZ (and Australia I noticed) though – people use skateboards as a legitimate mode of transport. They actually use it to get from Point A to Point B. Not just for fun, or for doing fancy tricks in the park, or even to fill some teenage angst stereotype – people skateboard here because it is a fast, and nifty way to travel. It’s a weird thing to get used to really – at first it used to scare the bejesus out of me every time one of them went past.

Why?

Because skateboards are loud! Not like Tony Hawk would have you believe on his video games. When people are using them to scoot at 40 miles an hour down the road – they sound like cracks of thunder, and you look and there is nothing there – just some barefoot hipster (yes, barefoot – those danger dabbling ruffians) making his way to work – zooming down the street 10 ft ahead of you.

The other thing, as the title suggests, is hitch hiking.

Now, I know that hitch hiking is a thing. That people do. But if I’m being honest – I thought it was something that people only do in two of the following situations:

1) Raising money for charity, so you can say you’ve hitch hiked across Europe or to Morocco. Or something like that.

2) In horror movies as a sure fire way to “get dead”.

These are the only two situations of hitch hiking I have ever come across. EVER. Oh, and that episode of Friends where Joey and Pheobe drive back from Vegas and pick up the random guy. But even in that occurance the first thing she asks him is “Are you a murderer?”

In New Zealand though, hitch hiking is pretty common, and it’s (apparently) perfectly acceptable and safe. Not that this would ever convince me to do it, but I’m always surprised by how common it is here. Pad and I walk to the gym most days in the town, and on numerous occasions now I’ve spotted people standing on the main road with their thumbs stuck out. It’s so cliched I want to laugh – but it’s real and they’re actually doing it.

When my family came to stay in November, they drove to Glenorchy, and on the way back told me they picked up a random girl who had been planning to walk back to Queenstown. First of all – this girl is mental, because that’s like a 5 hour walk – but also they didn’t really think it was a big deal. But if the same had happened in London – I’d be like “YOU PICKED SOMEONE UP OFF THE STREET!?”

But in Queenstown, I think it’s a bit different. Maybe it’s because of the travellers lifestyle here in NZ and the common goal that most people seem to have. Who knows.

Have you ever hitch hiked? 

 

Beautiful Bondi Beach

I’d heard a mix of things about Bondi Beach, but the place completely surpassed my expectations. Sure, there isn’t all too much there, and the beach is pretty crowded – but don’t let that scare you off visiting. I’d heard from a few people that Manly beach was a nicer option to Bondi – but if I’m being honest, I much preferred Bondi to Manly. Manly seemed very chaotic and hectic when we were there – and Bondi (although busy and hectic) was much more spaced out, with more room to relax, and offered a cleaner, more scenic beach too.

Whilst we didn’t do much during our time in Bondi, we had 3 full days which we happily just spent sitting around, reading, drinking smoothies, and relaxing by the beach. After a busy week in Sydney sight-seeing, it was nice just to relax with the gorgeous sea and view. We stayed in the YHA Bondi BeachHouse  for 4 nights, which (although no where near as nice as some of the hostels we’ve stayed in, in NZ) was OK. Never under-estimate the importance of air-con though, especially during an Australian heat wave. I think that’s what we were missing the most, cold showers were a twice daily occurrence!

The scenery is pretty much the main attraction here – there are loads of nearby coastal paths you can walk along and the views are just beautiful! The YHA was a little bit out of town (15 minute walk) but you could walk along the coastal path which was lovely into the town – where the views of the beach and rocky pools that run along the coast, were amazing. They have these stunning sand-stone formations, which look like something from a Star Wars movie set. One of the most popular of the beach / coastal walks is the Bondi to Coogee walk, Pad and I attempted it – but it was way to hot, so we gave up before we reached the end.

I also loved the Bondi pool too, which you can see below. It’s a salt water pool and completely open to the public, with pretty decent opening hours – which makes it even better. It was $5.50 and you can stay all day and relax in and out of the pool. There aren’t any sun loungers, but you can find places to lie down and perch when you’re not in the pool quite easily. You have an awesome view too – and it’s a pretty special place, definitely a must-do if you’re in Bondi Beach and you fancy something a bit more tame than the sea! Or you fancy a break from the sand!

Another bit of the town which adds a bit of character is the street art – something I wasn’t expecting! It’s all over the beach front, and some of the pieces are insane. I could’ve sat there and watched them spray paint all day – if the sunshine hadn’t been so hot!

 Things to do in Bondi that we’d recommend: 

– Watch the street artists (like above) 

– Get some fish and chips on the beach

– Browse the touristy surf shops

– Take a chance on the coastal walks and see how far you can get!

– Take a trip to Westfields in Bondi Junction

– Share a Smoothie from Boost on the beach front

Our Amazing New Years Eve in Sydney Harbourlights, at the Botanical Gardens

I wanted to dedicate an entire post to New Years Eve and just how incredible it was. It’s been my #1 bucketlist item for all my life (pretty much) and when the clock was five minutes to midnight I needed pinching just to convince myself we were actually there – and I was actually doing this thing which I’d always wanted to do. There’s not many times in your life when you can say that I guess.

It really was an amazing night – and perfect beyond belief. I think it exceeded both our expectations, not only because of how well it was organised, but because of how perfect our view was and perfect the weather was… etc. We decided in the summer that we’d spend NYE in Sydney, and I knew from past research that queing up for the public viewing points was going to be a big no-no. Around 17,000 people queue up and crowd into the botanical gardens for the best “free view” but that involves:

1) Queuing

2) More Queuing

3) Standing in the heat all day

4) Being crammed in with 17,000 other people for a view that’s not even guaranteed

Pad an I were pretty dead set against all of the above so started looking for ways we could have an amazing view – with minimal of all of the above – but maximum awesome. Which is when we stumbled across the private ticketed events held by the Botanical Gardens. We found one we liked the sound of – called Sydney Harbour Lights NYE, an outdoor event, with an incredible view and a free gourmet picnic, a bar and private seating. So we went for it.

Neither of us have any regrets with the choice – it was perfect. Sure, there were a lot of people in the Harbourlights NYE section of the Botanical Gardens, but it felt very private and you felt like the fireworks were being put on just for you. The views was completely clear too – no trees blocking the way and the picture perfect location for all those amazing photographs I was determined to get.

Watching the sun go down, and a plane flew over with this message. I loved this almost as much as the fireworks.

Another gorgeous shot of the sunset. This would be our view for the night!

The event Harbourlights began at 7.30pm – but we arrived at the Botanical gardens about an hour and a half early. People had already started to queue up, so I’m pretty glad in hindsight that we secured a decent spot in line because it meant we got first dibs on the seating. I would say, get there about 2 hours early if you’re really intent on getting a decent seat. I know 2 hours seems like a lot – but it’s not really anything compared to all the other people in the public area who would’ve queued for 8+ hours!

Remember that there are 3 private events at the botanical gardens too that night – so make sure you get in the right queue. It was sign posted – but lots of people we chatted too found that they’d been waiting in the wrong line for half an hour… so just be sure to check.

The way they set the event up was really interesting and not how either of us expected. There was a bar at one end with toilets, a water fountain halfway, and then rows of these cute deck chairs lining the harbour-side all the way up to the curve of the botanical gardens, the seats seemed to to go on and on. It was set out so that everyone had a great view, but if I was handing out advice to anyone hoping to book next year – it would still be to get there early and claim a seat on the front row.

Most people stood up when the midnight fireworks start anyhow, but for those practise ones at 9pm, sitting at the front will give you the best views.

The Harbourlights seating, we got to take these chairs home with us too!

Very impressed with the Gourmet Picnic!

Once the sun went down, we enjoyed a DJ and some “practise baby fireworks” and some incredible views across the harbour towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This was enough to keep us entertained! I brought a magazine with me too – just incase, but didn’t really need it. Do take some bottled water with you for the queue though – as it can get a bit hot!

The atmosphere was great all night long, and the views made it all the more memorable. I honestly think they are the best views on offer in the whole city. It sounds incredibly geeky but I can’t wait until we’re back in London – so I can order some of these prints blown up on canvas.

The view across the harbour, pretty amazing right?

The viewing platform… I loved the lanterns!

Lots of photo opportunities whilst waiting for midnight!

Blatantly getting more excited!

Then of course…. The fireworks started! I’ll just let the photos do the talking here!

Thoughts on Sydney

For our New Years Eve in Sydney blog post: Click Here.

We’ve been in Sydney for around a week now – so I wanted to update with some observations we’ve made about the city. It’s funny – how you can have an idea of what a city will be like, and then once you get there you find it’s actually something completely different. I think that’s one of the main issues with travelling – you can never know what a place is like until you’re actually there… no matter how many photos you looked at and how many times you’ve googled ‘street-viewed’ it.

I think this is one of my favourite images from the entire trip.

Sydney was much different to how I imagined it – but not in a bad way (let’s just get that much clear). I’ll try and explain this by using another example. The first time I landed in NYC for the first time I fell in love with the city and as soon as I left on the plane home I wanted to be back there again. In fact, if I’m honest – I spent the next 3 years (between then and my next visit) daydreaming about going back. It was like I had a huge love affair with the city – which sounds cliche and weird – but if you’ve ever felt that about a place you’ll be nodding your head right now agreeing.

How does this relate to Sydney? Well, before I’d been to Sydney (and I’d only seen it on TV, in films, in photos) I was pretty sure I’d have that same knee jerk reaction as with NYC. That I’d fall head over heels with the place and be dying to stay for longer and return as soon as I left Australian soil. But actually, much to my surprise, this hasn’t happened. I think Sydney is a great city, and I think it’s beautiful, fun and has lots to offer – but I’m not head over heels for the place as I am with cities like NYC and London.

I don’t want to talk this city down though – Sydney is great and I’d recommend it in a heart beat. It’s got lots to do, the weather is fantastic, the people are lovely and there are lots of beautiful places to see and explore – which all adds up to an awesome location and an awesome place to spend time.

So here are a few thoughts  and observations on Sydney:

It’s made for tourists: This is something I don’t think anyone could dispute. The entire city is tailored towards tourists, but this is nice. There are some gorgeous spots in the city, and every one seems to have a bar or restaurant overlooking it – as if to say “Hey, tourists – come join us in this photo opportunity”. It’s lovely if your are a tourist (which we were) because you can easily spend a day just pottering through various bars and eateries which all have amazing views. It also means there are plenty of benches, seating areas, water fountains…. etc. Everything that makes being a tourist easier.

It’s Expensive: And there is no way of getting around it. I’ve been noticing how expensive the Oz and NZ is more and more recently, and the prices in Sydney really shocked us both. Now, we’re not un-used to high prices, Pad and I: we lived and worked in London before moving out here. London is expensive by anyone’s standards, but Sydney just oversteps the marks with pricing.. at times it was ridiculous. For example – on our first night we ate in the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, the food was a little bit over average price-wise, but it was the drinks which made my jaw hit the table. The price of a burger and fries (standard dining out meal) was $22 (Oz dollars) and a small cocktails was $24. THE COCKTAIL COST MORE THAN THE MEAL. Pad and I aren’t ones for being tight financially – but even this was too far for us. We thought it may have just been the location of the restaurant (It’s was Darling Harbour after all) but the prices were high no matter where we went.

One of the cheaper meals we had, still about $30 though. Burritos in our hotel room. Love actually on the laptop (incase you were curious).

The lifestyle works: And it’s laid back. I think this is something that is universal across both NZ and Oz, and it really is something you notice – especially if you come from London. The people are helpful, cheerful and nothing is ever too much trouble usually. Sydney has two beaches right on it’s doorstep for those lazy weekends too, proper sandy, surfer beaches – which is something I feel London is lacking. I’d love a gorgeous sunny beach to head to on the weekends in London summer. But that’s a UK problem in general…. 😉

A day-trip to Manly beach. 20 minutes on the ferry from Sydney city centre.

It feels safe: This was evident to us most when we walked back to our hotel from the Botanical Gardens on NYE. It was a pretty long walk, at 1am on the rowdiest night of the year – and yet we both felt safe and encountered no problems along the way. Now I know I can’t speak for an entire city here – but I’ve felt safe and comfortable at all times here which is definitely something you look for as a female traveller. Were I travelling here on my own and not with Pad – this would be even more important to me, as I’m sure any female will agree with. Our hotel is actually on one of the busiest nightlife streets in Sydney – so we could easily have felt intimidated coming in and out during the night time – but never did.

The ferrys are mental: One of the things Sydney does relatively OK is public transport. Whilst it’s not great (it’s no where near as well covered and connected as London and NYC) there is a variety of transport available such as buses, trains (that are double decker!!) and ferries too. One thing you should note though – the ferries are mental as is the place you board from. The ferry terminal is literally mental – we used it a few times (to manly, to luna park, etc) and each time we were overwhelmed by how many people there were and how much pushing and shoving you have to do. Granted – this is a busy time of year  – but still… BUSY. On another public transport related note – The double decker trains were great.

double decker!

It’s not huge: In comparison to a small town – Sydney would initially seem like a huge city – and that’s probably what you’d be expecting when visiting for the first time. In actual fact though – Sydney is pretty small – and you could easily (as long as you didn’t have knee trouble or a broken hip or something) walk the entire city. Coming from London I almost expected the city to be on a similar scale – but whereas you would be exhausted walking around the many attractions and boroughs of London on foot (the tube and buses are a must in London because of it’s sheer size) – in Sydney you wouldn’t. Most major attractions are within a 15-20 minute walking radius – and although public transport makes it easier – it’s not actually necessary if you’ve got on a good pair of shoes and don’t mind walking.

Walking from the Opera House Bar to the Bridge takes about 10 / 15 minutes.

There’s more to it than meets the eye: One of my favourite spots in the city was actually the Chinese Garden of Friendship. A bizarrely peaceful garden in the centre of Darling Harbour and the middle of all things touristy. I’d recommend anyone in Sydney, go and take a walk around this place – not just because it’s absolutely beautiful, but because it’s a nice break from the crowds and hoards of people that flock around the more touristy spots of the city.

 

A Queenstown Christmas

Just a note to say, Merry Christmas to everyone, have a fantastic day! We’re 12 hours ahead of you all – so we’ve already had our Christmas day – and are now slobbing out on the sofa, so very full of Christmas food and sweets and chocolate.

Here are some photos from our day – enjoy!

Christmas Carols in Queenstown town centre on Christmas Eve evening. Swiftly followed by drinks on the beach.

A very busy Queenstown beach. Such a great atmosphere!

Gorgeous, right!?

We did all the traditional things – like cooking a huge Christmas Dinner, with all the trimmings (even Yorkshire Puddings!!) and opening present, drinking and then falling asleep infront of a film. When we woke up from the film though – we headed down to the beach in 26 degree heat, to enjoy some sunshine and ice-cream. Pretty sweet, huh?

Here’s some photos of our amazing dinner:

And of course…. CAKESSSS!!

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” (read that like Slade sings it)

CHRISTMAS IS HERE!

Which is awesome. And the world didn’t end like those Mayan people thought it would, which means…. We actually get to open our presents! Oh isn’t life good. Anyway, here are some photos of our Christmas in New Zealand, it’s been quite a strange experience so far if I’m being honest especially with the sunshine and summery weather going against anything any British person would be used to during December. I’m used to wearing 3/4 jumpers, 2 pairs of socks, sitting stupidly close to the fire and being snowed in. But, saying that, we have done our best to make it still seem festive and seem christmassy, even though the weather is telling us something completely to the contrary. These efforts have included:

– Me making an awesome Spotify playlist (which features mainly Michael Buble) and singing along to it at least 1 hour of each day. This time schedule is only rough – sometimes it is 3 hours. My favourite this year is “Christmas (Baby please come home)” I think I have played that song to it’s death the past few days and I’m sure Pad would agree. I’m still not tired of it though (Pad would likely disagree), and have to try my hardest not to dance around like Matilda on the table (skip about halfway through this clip and you’ll know what I mean) whenever it comes on.

– Our amazing Christmas tree is looking better now that it did when I put it up in November (Yes November. I really like Christmas) and I added some red baubles because the silver and white made it seem a bit “show-homey”. I know no one cares that I added red baubles – but I do and I think they look really pretty. Said she, the Christmas loser.

 

– PRESENTS!! I wasn’t too sure we’d have that many presents under the tree this year because you can hardly expect people to send them to you when you lives miles and miles across the other side of the world. But actually we have a nice little stack under there, and every time I see it it makes me feel like a kid again. We have some awesome family and friends who have sent us cards and presents and they’ve been arriving in a steady stream since the start of December. It’s really made us feel both loved and special. That’s super corny, but it’s also super true.

– My lovely Nanny actually brought some of her ‘hand-made’ christmas decorations over to NZ with her when she visited us, which was really special and made me feel like a proper grown-up. Which would sound weird and completely bizarre to anyone outside of the family… So let me explain. Basically, my Nanny has always knitted all the grandchildren in the family their own Christmas stocking, and it’s somewhat a tradition to open all the stockings together every year when all the family (which includes, aunties, uncles, cousins…) get together. But whilst each grandchild has their own stocking – the adults have their own decorations, so my Mum (come christmas) would always take out the decorations that Nanny had knitted for her. Anyway, this year, Nanny brought Paddy and I a stocking each and our own set of Christmas decorations too.

– We’ve majorly stocked up on sweets and chocolate too – because (let’s face it) it’s not christmas without copious amounts of sugar and unhealthy things. I’ve actually had to wrap my Christmas candy up and put it under the tree – because I lack so much self restraint. If it wasn’t wrapped up and under there, I definitely would’ve eaten it by now.

– New Zealand has been pretty good so far with Christmas movies, they’ve already aired Love Actually and Home Alone (so that was a very promising start) so we’re hoping that over Christmas we’ll still get the classic Christmas movies on TV just like we would in the UK. BUT – if all else fails, we went to the DVD rental store today and majorly stocked up on films and boxsets to keep us going. Because, you know, just in case. If you were thinking “they don’t look very festive” well we did go in with a festive list of movies, but they were all sold out. So we opted for “entertainment factor” instead.

– Last but not least, we have bought loads of food. I did take a picture of the fridge looking all full and amazing – but then Pad pointed out that actually, all the Christmas food was in the freezer. Fail on my part. I did take a photo of our dessert plans though, cupcakes with these fancy little Christmas tree decorations I found. I know my little sister will be overly impressed by the icing sugar for the cupcakes – seen as she basically lived off that when she was a kid.

If Carlsberg did boats…. Rock The Boat, NZ.

The second half of our trip to Bay of Islands was to be spent on the Rock Cruise. I’d been looking forward to this since we first booked our flight to New Zealand like 7 months ago. Pad went three years ago when he first visited the country and I’d already heard loads about it (all good) so the expectations were definitely high.

I can well and truly say, every expectation was met. This tour is absolutely one of the must-do things in New Zealand, without a doubt. Bay of Islands is about a 3.5 hours drive from Auckland, which can seem a bit heavy – but in all honesty – it’s worth every second of that drive to go on this tour.

Anyway, I took so many photos during the 2 days on board – I’ll let them do most of the talking.

We were booked into the double cabin on board – which was a super cute little wooden room with a little double bed. It had a gorgeous sliding door window which looked out onto the water (kind of obvious – because it’s a boat) but waterviews always make me swoon. This was a view that would take some beating, especially as it changed every time we set sail and cruised somewhere else in the area.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin, not that you spend much time in there – you’re too busy doing all the awesome activities they have planned for you! I think we had the only double cabin on board- and I’m pretty sure the other rooms are quads and dorm-style. Still – they all looked roomy and pretty similar to ours in design. You’re only on there for one night anyway – so whichever room you have would be fine.

The best bit?

One of the biggest selling points for this boat-tour (and probably what sets it miles apart from others in NZ) is the incredible staff and how informal they make the whole experience. In the past I’ve felt a bit like sheep being loaded onto a boat – being told to do this and look here, etc. The Rock Cruise is nothing like this though – there are scheduled activities and a clear itinerary – but actually, if you’re not feeling any of it, or you’d rather just chill out at the cute little bar on board, that’s fine. There’s no pressure.

The staff are awesome too – friendly and helpful and hilarious from the moment you step on board. They’re all young (which we loved, being a young couple, as they were all a similar age) but I’m guessing if you’re in an older crowd the staff inject a bit of youthfulness and excitement into the whole experience too.  Big kudos to Dan who was on his first cruise, and was made to drink some weird concoction of fish grossness (which you can see above). Also to Ryan and James who definitely deserve some kind of medal for continued enthusiasm and all-round lovelyness. And also Johnny, Steph, Chelsea, Ben and Jake! Keep up the good work guys, I think you’ve built the best team of staff this side of the hemisphere!

Evening activities?

As the evening rolled in, we’d cruised over to a gorgeous little bay, to set up anchor for the night. The bay we were in was pretty stunning (the amount of photos I took testaments to that). Within a few minutes of settling in the bay, the crew had the fishing rods out – and I was so eager. I’ve never fished properly before – and had a funny feeling I’d be awesome at it.

I wasn’t as good as I might have hoped (not a single fish was caught by myself) but it was still extremely fun! I had a few nibbles, and my bait kept going missing but alas I didn’t catch anything. Except some coral. Which was exciting for about 3 minutes whilst I reeled it in thinking it was a fish. Error!

Catch of the day. Obviously.

It’s hard to concentrate on fishing though, when this is the view. That’s my excuse.

After fishing, it was tea-time (yay!) and the crew got the BBQ going. Tea consisted of Steak and Sausage and a variety of salad, bread and other yummy stuff. I was pretty impressed by the food actually, there was a big choice of stuff and it filled us both up for the kayaking later on. Tea is a great time to get chatting to the other guests onboard too, as you all sit on a huge long table. We were lucky to sit near the guy who caught a big Snapper fish – so got a sneaky taste!

Night Kayaking anyone? 

This was my highlight of the entire trip. There are a few things that made this little part of the trip so good though; not only was it a first for me (I’ve never kayaked at night time before!) but the surroundings were just beautiful. The stars in the sky were so clear and stunning – probably the most clear sky I’ve ever seen in my life, only being topped by Abersoch in Wales. This night sky topped that 100% though, with so little light pollution, you really can see every tiny star. The other thing that makes this kind of magic is the plancton in the water (did I spell that right?) which glows whenever you move it. It means that whenever you move through the water it glows around you. It’s something incredibly beautiful and something I’ve never seen before – which made it that bit special.

Day 2

Next morning, we were up to the following views – which was definitely enough to wake us up! We slept pretty well actually – although there was a phantom snorer on board – who was never named and shamed. His (Well, I’m guessing it was a he) snoring was literally shaking the boat at one point!

Breakfast was at 8am, which surprisingly we made in time and consisted of porridge (yum) and fruits and cereal. The morning then consisted of some diving in the nearby reef, and a trip over to a little bay / beach which was just stunning.

The island we headed over to was probably the most lovely, remote beach I’ve yet to visit. Part of the trip over there though, did consist of a (very hardcore) walk up a hill, so you could really take in the views from up top. Whilst the views were definitely worth it…. I have never been one for hills (especially walking up them) – so I was a bit of a wimp here. OK a lot of a wimp, I swore several times while trying to keep my cool getting up the “mountain”.

Those views I was telling you about.

I could’ve happily just stayed on this beach all week.

So yeah. That’s about it! After we headed back to the boat, we had some lovely lunch (beef sandwiches) and then cruised back over to Paihia in the sunshine. I don’t know what else I can do to convince you to do the Rock Cruise, if you’re not convinced by now there is no hope. For you. Ever. Because you’ll be really missing out.

Oh, here is the blog post from the first half of our Bay of Islands trip. In case you want more reading!

Bay of Rain. I mean, Islands.

So, Pad and I were feeling pretty smug after Wellington. We managed to plan our 4 day trip to coinside with the most gorgeous spell of weather, like ever.

This week we headed to Bay of Islands. And had no such luck.

This is the weather that greeted us when we arrived.

Just so you know, The Bay of Islands is known in New Zealand for basically being heaven on earth. It’s got all these amazing little beaches, dolphins and whales in the bay, lots of islands for cruising around and glorious sunshine. How then, was it even possible that we timed our trip for (what can only be described as) a tropical storm. We’re on day 3/6 now (as I’m writing this) and the weather has managed to brighten up a tiny bit finally, but by that I mean we’ve seen the sun today. For maybe 15 minutes? Was pretty sweet though.

Days 1 and 2 were a different story though – I’m talking RAIN. WIND. And surprisingly… HUMIDITY. It did not feel like much of a beach holiday (except for the humidity bit – that was incredibly similar to Thailand). But I guess you don’t win every time. We still had ice-cream, paddled in the sea and saw Dolphins. So it’s not all bad. Tomorrow we’re doing the awesome Rock Cruise, which is an overnight boat tour – and (having checked several websites) it looks like we might, finally, get lucky with weather that isn’t wet.

Paihia is a pretty small (OK, tiny) town. It’s basically made up of one shopping street, a waterside street, and big car park and lots of palm trees and beaches. Which, I should imagine, when the weather is nice – is pretty awesome. It meant that Pad and I had to get inventive about things to do though. Which wasn’t so much a bad thing – if anything it stopped us lounging around on the beach, and forced us to go and explore a little bit more.

Here’s what we found: 

The Marina

The marina area is super small, it consists of a gift shop, a little information centre a restaurant (called 35’ where we had breakfast and were very impressed) and then a little jetty where all the boat tours park and load from.

In the summer I bet it’s gorgeous to sit and relax near the waterside  but because of the weather it was a bit wet and windy so we didn’t stick around for long.

Dolphin tours

This has probably been the highlight of the first half of the trip. There are two companies that do these Dolphin discovery tours in the bay and we decided on the Eco friendly one (I know, we’re so good) and headed off to board the boat. When we arrived though, we were surrounded by school kids, and it didn’t take long to realise – that these kids were going to be joining us on the tour. It then occurred to us that the school trip (about 25 kids!?) were the ONLY people on the boat except us. And suddenly the boat seemed a lot smaller.

Now, I’ve helped out on school trips before (my Mum’s a head teacher) and it’s super fun for about 5 minutes and then you just what to escape from all the noise and screaming. I don’t think a 5 hour dolphin tour with 25+ kids was going to be the relaxing experience we’d hoped for. They weren’t even the “good age” of like 4-8 where they’re still relatively well behaved. These kids were like 11 – 13 years old. PRIME ANNOYING AGE.

We hadn’t even boarded the boat and there was this kid doing dolphin noises. SO HELP ME GOD I WILL PUSH YOU OFF THIS JETTY CHILD. SO BE QUIET.

It was at this point when I realised I had to do something. Anything. So I put on a sad face and looked really disappointed, and the nice man transferred us over to his competitor who was leaving at the same time. I think he felt our pain (after all, he was going to be driving them round for 5 hours).

The new boat only had two kids on (yes!) and the rest of the people (only 9 of them) were couples like us. Which meant we were back on track for a nice afternoon again. Minus the 25+ school children.

It took us about 2 hours to finally track the dolphins down, it was pretty rough at sea, so I think the must have been harder to trace. Anyway, we finally tracked them down and it was gorgeous. We all got out onto the front of the boat and the dolphins (who were completely wild) were just swimming right along side us, about an arms length away. It was so beautiful, definitely something we’ll try and do again when we’re in Australia.

After they’d found us and shown us the dolphins (we spent about an hour or so watching them) we headed off the this tiny remote island for tea and pie. New Zealand makes the best pie – so there definitely weren’t any complain here!

Haruru Falls

We kind of stumbled upon this place by accident, but it was pretty gorgeous so I’m glad we found it. I think we actually drove the long way round, through this little dirt track  and farm land (much to Pad’s pleasure – who was driving). But we realised the next day we could have actually got there on a mina road, much quicker. Oops.

It’s just a waterfall so you wouldn’t really spend more than 10 minutes here – but still gorgeous all the same. Glad we stumbled upon it.

Gorgeous view we found on the way to Haruru falls.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The treaty grounds are where the English original signed a peace treaty with the New Zealand tribes, the Maori. The Maori culture is really treasured in New Zealand – it’s a big part of the country’s heritage and it was really nice to go and see some more of that side of things, and also walk around the protected area too. It’s situated on a little island just off the main town of Paihia – actually the same island our hotel was on.

Whilst I really enjoyed seeing all the cultural and historical things they had on display – I was super impressed with the little jungle trail they had – which was this elevated pathway through the jungle area.

 

Warning. I might get festive on you.

Christmas is going to be a bit different in New Zealand – which is both exciting and also a bit sad. Instead of the usual Christmas traditions we’re used to (largely dependant on it snowing outside- thus staying in) are going to be all swaped around for a walk on the beach and Christmas Dinner on the balcony.

November and December are actually my most favourite times of the year. I mean, you have; Halloween (kinda), Bonfire Night, my birthday, CHRISTMAS, boxing day and then New Year (Kinda). Is that not the best line-up of awesomeness you could ever wish for within 2 months?!

I’m excited to spend that time over here though – even though we are both secretly missing the Christmas markets and hot cider and German markets. I mean, we do have a pretty amazing New Year planned (in Sydney) so I’m sure the amount of fireworks that night – will more than compensate for the lack of snow on Christmas day. I fact, I was so overly excited for Christmas this year I put the tree up in November. I took me a whole afternoon – and even now I’m still rearranging the baubles so they look ‘Monica from Friends” perfect.

Any Friends watchers know exactly which episode I’m on about. 

Anyway.

Here is what I love about Christmas. Sure, I might not get some of these things this year (mainly snow) – but it’ll still be awesome, and I think it’ll be kind of nice having a Christmas tan and wearing santa hats on the beach.

I love December.

And decorating the tree.

And dressing the dog up in Christmas stuff.

And Mince Pies.

And being snowed in.

And the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree.

And Christmas biscuits!

And Christmas family games.

And making Snow Angels.

And chocolate yule log.

And these two.

And Christmas brass bands.

And Christmas day dog walks.

And Christmas pyjamas.

And random presents.

And when people fall in the snow.

And snow ball fights.

And setting fire to the Christmas Pudding.

And Stockings.

And this place.

And moments like this.

And being excited for SANTA!!

And Christmas Cracker. And Christmas Dinner!!

And Angela’s amazing tree. Which gets bigger every year.

And how Cracker jokes are always rubbish. And your sister is even rubbisher at reading them.

And German markets. And deep fried cheese. And Hot Cider.

And this guy.

NYC: No place I’d rather be.

NYC is my most favourite place in the whole world. Pad and I are planning to visit again next year (around the end of June) as our final pit-stop on the big journey home – but here are a few photographs from our visit in November 2011. We went over for my birthday (best birthday ever) and got hugely lucky with the weather. Considering there had been snowstorms only days before our arrival, we managed to strike gold with 5 amazing days of sunshine. For some of the days I didn’t even need my coat.

Which is a big deal. Especially for NYC in November.

Enjoy the photos!

Remember that time when…. It was the worst day ever?

Whilst travel is often full of awesome experiences and life changing moments – when you travel, you also kind of set yourself up a fall. Someone once said “It’s not a proper trip until you’ve made a fool of yourself” and I absolutely agree with that. What kind of traveller would you even be if you didn’t muck up once in a while?

So here is a list of my worst muck-ups. Enjoy.

1. Food Poisoning before a flight. 

If you were part of the Birmingham-group ski trip in 2010 (I think it was 2010?!) you’ll remember this. We had all decided (all 10 of us) to meet at Gatwick airport 6 hours before the flight (it was an early morning flight – so we were going to sit it out in the airport – because of stupid train timings I think). Anyway. I was one of the first people in the group to arrive and sat with Dan and Dani in a little coffee shop in the airport, waiting for the others.

And then it gets bad. I felt a little ill, so I stood up, walked about 10 ft, and just threw up everywhere. It was not good. In fact, I could pretty much put it down as one of the worst moments of my entire life. I could barely stand, never mind ask for help – but luckily Dani had already rushed over and begun helping me get out of the way. For the following 6 hours, whilst waiting for the flight, I was curled in a pathetic ball on a hospital bed behind the scenes of the airport.

I could barely walk, stand or talk for those hours and it was literally hell. I was determined not to miss the flight though, and managed to not only board the flight – but get our whole group skipped through all the queues too. I guess being sick pays off a little bit. But yeah.

The lesson I learnt? Don’t eat Ginster’s. Especially not before a flight.

Taken after the food poisoning. Obviously.

2. Swollen feet in Singapore. 

I have never had swollen feet before. Actually (if I’m being honest) I always thought people just made it up. Like it was an excuse for people to stroll about the plane cabin annoying people. I’ll even admit – when people bought those fancy swelling socks – I would laugh at them and say “Haha swollen feet isn’t real. You silly person.”

But let me tell you: THEY ARE REAL.

This year on our flight to New Zealand, we had a stopover in Singapore. Now, I’ve flown that route before and never had any issues. But this time it was all very different. I didn’t really notice during the flight (because who ever pays attention to their feet during a flight) – I was too busy watching The Avengers. It was when I got off the flight that I noticed. First of all, my shoes didn’t fit. That was my first sign. The second thing? MY FEET WERE TWICE THEIR NORMAL SIZE.

I spent our stopover sleeping with my feet propped up on about 3 pillows, trying to drain away my big swollen hobbit feet. Not fun.

Lesson Learnt? Swollen feet are real. Move about the cabin when the seatbelt sign is switched off.

3. Not finding your hotel. 

Philippa knows what I’m on about here. When we visited Rome for a city break – we actually did pretty well finding a nice hotel online, that was cheap and pretty central. In fact – it seemed a little too good to be true. Which is probably why we began to panic when we couldn’t find the hotel easily. I think we both though (deep down) we’d fallen victim to some kind of hotel-con.

We were told it was within this block by a local – and yet I think we walked around the entire block twice before finally locating this little buzzer on a random door – which was our hotel. Lucky for us though – the hotel was gorgeous – just incredibly hidden away.

Lesson learnt? Always print off a map or have a smart phone. So finding it is easier.

The happiness sunk in once we realised we hadn’t been conned.

4. Bad Burning

This one didn’t actually happen to me (although I have been burnt many times) but actually to my sister. When we visited Singapore for the first (when we were mere whippersnappers) I have this awful memory of my sister getting burnt. And I have this even more awful memory of her having to take a cold shower fully clothed, because it was too painful for the water to touch the skin directly. Not good.

Kim Kardashian. The only person who still looks good sun burnt. And the only exception to the suncream rule.

Lesson learnt? WEAR SUNCREAM AND LOTS OF IT. 

5. Getting Stranded. 

If you’ve ever been stranded in an airport, you’ll know what I mean here. It’s pretty much awful.

Last year, my sister and I were due to fly out to Dubai to spend it with our Mum (who lives over there). Our flight was due to leave on the 22nd of December – which was also when London experienced it’s worse snowstorms of the last 30 years. When we arrived at the airport, we weren’t exactly optimistic anyway as hundreds of flights had already been turned away and been cancelled and the airport was full of sad and disappointed faces.

Last plane standing. This was what we were waiting for.

Our airline was still running though, and they checked our baggage and let us through customs into Duty Free. We had three hours to wait for our flight. During this time the snow outside kept falling, and more and more flights started dropping off the board. Not ours though, ours just got more and more delayed – which meant for about 8 hours we were in this awful state of limbo. We were kind of hopeful – because it hadn’t yet been called off. But at the same time we were stranded in Terminal 5 (rubbish), very tired and seeing more and more people around us getting sent home with cancelled flights. By the time our flight finally got called to board – we were the only flight load left in the terminal and all of us trudged over to the plane. I think at this point – we were still expecting something to go wrong. Maybe the plane would be frozen or something and we’d have to get back off it.

But we finally got off the ground – and the sense of relief was huge. Mainly because we know Mum wouldn’t be spending Christmas alone – which would’ve been horrible. Thank you British Airways for flying through the snow.

Lesson Learnt? Always have something to do in the airport. Incase you get stranded for 8+ hours. 

6. Kids being sick on you. 

This bad story actually turns into a good story. But bear with me. It starts off pretty gross.

On my flight home from Singapore in 2010, I was travelling on my own, which always run the awful risk of “what if I’m sat next to a really awful human” dilema. I was feeling pretty smug when I realised I was sat in the aisle seat of the middle section (YES, only one human to worry about!!) so I thought my chances of a bad human (by this I mean; annoying, arm rest hogger, loud snorer, frequent toilet visitor type human) was slimmer.

I was even more joyous when a quiet little Korean lady and her 4 year old child sat down in the two seats to the left of me. She sat the little boy in the seat to my left and he really was very small and very quiet, and everything was lovely.

UNTIL TAKE OFF.

As soon as the plane left the ground this kid basically turned into the worst kid ever. Have you seen Looper yet?

(If not – you should, it’s really good)

Well you know the crazy-ass possessed kid in Looper? Well that’s what he turned into.

If you’ve seen it. You’ll understand.

This was a long flight. And this child for the next 2 hours proceeded to not only scream at an extremely painful frequency, but kick me too. At one point I offered him my teddy bear (yes – I always fly with my bear) to calm him down. He took one look at it and I thought he might rip it’s head off. So I quickly grabbed him back and stuffed him in my bag out of sight. Not the kid – the bear.

Then it got worse. We hit some turbulence.

Crazy-boy was sick. Everywhere. On me. On my bare feet.

By this point I was getting glances from all the other passengers that literally read, “You poor girl. You don’t deserve this. I feel your pain. I would swap, but I too hate the idea of being sick on. So I will just offer you a nice sympathetic glance in the hopes you understand”. I won’t lie, I started to cry a little bit of out of sheer self pity.

The air hostess quickly came over though, and helped get me cleaned up. She even gave the boy an evil glare too. Which was satisfying. Now I know it wasn’t his fault he was sick. But he didn’t have to aim it in my direction and he had been kicking me and yelling at me for 2 hours previous to the sick incident. Anyway, the end of the story goes like this… There were no economy seats left, so I got bumped up to premium economy.

Which was full of win. Even if I did smell of sick all the way home.

 

There’s Nothing I Love More Than a Sunset – Photo Post

I love taking photographs at sunset. Infact – if you said to me:

“Ellie you can only ever take photos at sunset now” 

I would say:

“OK. Fair enough. That’s a good deal” 

I don’t think I’d even argue.

I’ve been to many places in the past and witnessed some gorgeous sunsets, each one of them I took photographs of. Because of this, I thought I’d put together a collection of my favourite sunset images I’ve taken. So enjoy!

A Romantic Sunset

A ‘Looking across to Brooklyn’ Sunset

A Beautiful Croatian Sunset

A Best Friend Sunset

A Hipster Sunset

A Very Yellow Sunset

A Dubai Sunset

A Green Park (London) Sunset

A Queenstown Sunset

An Ocean Sunset

A Singapore Sunset

A Gondola Sunset

A Canyon Sunset – Oman

A New York City Sunset (The Best Kind)

 

Places to Fill Your Belly in Welly.

We ate in some pretty super fantastic places in Wellington (New Zealand) so here are our two big recommendations. The first was a southern style restaurant called Sweet Mothers Kitchen – based on southern american cuisine. It was a local style place, and was busy from the moment we arrived to the moment we left – which was a pretty sure sign that this place is a big favourite amongst the locals.

The food was really home-made and lovely – with loads of fun options I’ve never tried or even heard of before. My favourite thing by far that we had here was the Swamp Dip – a cheesy dip mixed with Spinach  (you can see it above left in the image). It was seriously yummy – and I’m kind of sad I didn’t get the recipe from them because I’d love to try and make it myself. I would fail of course – but I could try! The Swamp Dip came with some toasted baguette pieces too for dipping. Oh man I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

For mains, I had southern fried chicken – which was really nice – but didn’t quite live up to my expectation after the amazing Swamp dip starters! Pad had BBQ chicken which looked equally as good. Pictures below!

The best bit about Sweet Mother’s Kitchen in Wellington, was actually probably (besides the amazing swamp dip) the decor. The place was done out like a little busy bustling neighbourhood restaurant and had all those little tidbits and toys and memo’s – you might find in a real kitchen. If you’re the kind of person who loves having things to look at whilst they eat (you know who I mean – the kind of person who reads the cereal box as they eat breakfast) then this place wouldn’t disappoint. You could spend hours looking through all the stuff they’ve collected here.

 The other place we visited which really blew us away was The Flying Burrito Brothers on Cuba Street. We are massive Mexican fans, so would never pass up the chance of trying out a new mexican place. I’d read a few reviews for The Flying Burrito Brothers online before we flew out to Wellington, so I knew it was somewhere we had to find! It completely blew us away! Here is was we tried whilst there:

– Cheesy Breaded Jalepenos (These were AMAZING)

– Pork Scratchings with Salsa Dip

– Cheesy Fondue with Nachos for dipping (again – the fondue was beyond amazing)

– Beef Fajitas (full of awesome)

– Chicken Burrito (full of awesome also)

Pad was also a big fan of the range of chilli sauce offered. Brave boy. 

Also. Can anyone help us with this?? I thought it was a mexican frying an egg – but I don’t think that’s right. HELP. It’s been frustrating me all week. 

Wellington: More Hipster than Shoreditch

This week I turned 23.

Not that I act it.

23 whole years. That’s old. Not as old as 27 (Pad) but still pretty old.

To offset my age (and take my mind off the incoming side-effects of old age) we headed over to Wellington for the week. Neither of us had ever been to Wellington before – and had no idea what to expect – so it was all very exciting. I was expecting the city to be a little like Auckland to be honest, so thought I might be a bit under-whelmed (as I was with Auckland) but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

My main concern with Auckland was it’s lack of identity. Whilst it’s a great city and I enjoyed spending time there – I didn’t feel the city had much character and usually, when I visit somewhere it’s the character and the personality of a place that makes me fall head over heels for it. I love the history of London, I love the variety of Brighton, I love the beauty of Queenstown and I love (more than any other city) the charm, festivity and epicness of New York. Auckland felt like, to me anyway – that it lacked any one defining quality.

Wellington though – was full of character and were we not living in the beautiful Queenstown – I felt I could have more than happily lived there.

Wellington Skyline at Night

And Again.

Aside from the fact that the city has a gorgeous waterfront and marina area (always top of my list for ‘whether I’m going to like a place or not’) it also has a great vibe to it. I found that the sheer variety of people in Wellington, and the variety of neighbourhoods and places – was really appealing. It actually reminded me a little of an american city – Pad likened it to Seattle several times. I’ve never been to Seattle so can’t vouch for this – but Wellington did give off a very american vibe – in a really endearing way.

The city centre is packed full of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – we read somewhere that Wellington actually has more eateries per-capita than NYC. I found that ridiculous at first and made a “ho ho tour book – you are so wrong” face – but actually I think it might be right. There are more cafes and restaurants and bars you can shake a stick at here. Speaking of which – we sampled a few – but more about that later.

Gorgeous waterside cafe (with bean bags!!)

Anyway, going back to what I was saying about defining features – Wellington’s character is definitely it’s quirkiness and ‘hipsterness’. Any of our friends from London will know what I mean by Hipster, if you don’t – it’s the kind of of person who is so damn trendy that fashion and quirkiness just poors out of their ears. This is not me. But – saying that – I really really loved Wellington. Because even though it is super Hipster – it is Hipster in a “come join us in our hipsterness” kind of way. Not in a “you’re not cool enough to be here” kind of way. Does that make sense?

Probably not. Never mind.

The jist of my point is – Wellington is super nice. You should go there. 

From the really quirky Cuba Street, with all the lovely independent restaurants and bars, to the night-time markets and live music – to the bean bags near the water front and random art installations on bridges this city is just gorgeous and so full of loveliness.

I think (besides Cuba Street) one of my favourite places we visited in Wellington was the Botanical Gardens. To get up to the Botanical Gardens (just above the city) you can either walk – it’s a long walk all uphill – or you can get the Wellington Cable Car. We did the latter. The cable car is $6 return (oh hello, bargain) and it whizzes you up to the top of the hill and drops you off. From there you can either have a stroll around and then get the cable car back down, or you can walk down to the city back through the gardens.

The view from the Botanical Gardens are amazing…. I think one of my favourite sights I’ve seen since coming to New Zealand. Aside from our balcony view back home in Queenstown of course. You can see the whole city from up here and it’s just beautiful – we couldn’t have got luckier with weather either, it was blue skies all the way.

Stunning view from the top of the Botanical Gardens

The incredible view!

My next favourite thing we did in Wellington was the zoo. It’s a little bus ride out of the city (number 23 – good memory points for me) and it’s just lovely! Kinda small (especially if you’re comparing it to zoo’s like Singapore or Australia) but it’s very cute and it has baby monkeys and also baby ducks. So if you like baby animals – you will love it here.

Oh, they also have real animals too. Like Giraffes and Lions and Tigers. And Bears. 

Oh – and on one last note, we stayed in a cute little double room in the YHA in the city centre. As far as hostels go – it was awesome. Great staff, great atmosphere and awesome facilities too. I even got a birthday poster….

Birthday Poster!

Also. I have tried to align these photos for the past hour. But Crazy Stupid Love is on Sky Movies and quite frankly I’m distrasted. I call it the Gosling effect. They will never be aligned. Sorry for this. Never mind.

Another Also: Here are some photos from the Wellington plane flight – some of the most gorgeous views I ever saw.

Sky High Views Are The Best Kind.

When we first flew into Queenstown (when we first moved here) I didn’t have a window seat. Which is always rubbish. Especially when you are flying over New Zealand.

When we flew out to Wellington this week though (more on that here)… I DID HAVE A WINDOW SEAT! Which means I spent the entire flight blocking the window with my big head and my camera.

I also played Temple Run for several minutes (the official Disney version incase you’re curious) and beat my high score TWICE. 

So all in all, it was a good flight.

Mainly because of all the high-score ass-kicking I did. But also because of these beautiful photos I took:

Milford Sound Part 2

Here are the next set of photos from Milford Sound, these photos were taken actually inside the Milford Sound – not just inside the National Park. I can’t stress how beautiful it was and how lucky we were to get such amazing weather too.

We went on the Jucy Cruise – which was really lovely – quite a small boat but that actually works better because you’re not fighting for the best space on the boat. There was one point actually where a penguin was spotted and literally everyone flocked (haha bird joke) to the back of the boat – and I thought we might actually flip over. We didn’t though. Phew. The penguin was very small though (it was not a king-penguin) more like a toy penguin. Polly-pocket’s pet penguin – I might even go as far to claim. My zoom wasn’t good enough to capture it so I’ll just have to have memories in my mind to keep forever, instead of photos. How annoying. Stupid small penguin. 

Anyway – here are the photos:

Milford Sound

Another Photo of Milford Sound. Expect lots more.

Looking out to the ocean.

Another one of my favourites.

Gorgeous waterfall – We got drenched getting this photo.

Literally – So drenched. Like taking an actual shower.

Told you.

SEALS!!

Gorgeous cliff face.

Yep.

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, just click here.

Milford Sound Part 1

Today was a pretty awesome day. 

We decided yesterday (on a whim) to book a day trip over to Milford Sound, apparently the chance of getting good weather in Milford Sound is VERY rare and they forecast good weather for today – so we just booked it and hoped for the best.

Milford Sound (in case you didn’t know) is where they filmed all the really gorgeous bits from Lord Of The Rings. All the really really pretty bits – that’s exactly where we were sailing around today. It’s mainly where they filmed the scene with Rivendell (and the journey to Rivendell – WOW I need to get a life) and even though there are no elves there in real life (they do have seals and penguins though) it’s still absolutely breathtaking and by far the both amazing day we’ve had so far.

The day-trip is a long one – you start off at 7am from Queenstown and ahead of you there is about 5 hours in a coach. To be honest – I thought Id have my headphones on for most of the coach ride – but actually the views from the window were incredible all the way – and the driver was very entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever known for one man to have so many facts and trivia stored in his head. We were with Jucy Tours, on their Eco Coach (which has a glass roof – good for seeing mountains) and we’d definitely recommend it 100%.

Once we were inside the Fiordland National Park we got to get out and explore a little too at various spots along the way – we broke the journey up too – so full of win. Here are some photos of the national park, before we actually arrived at Milford Sound. It kept getting more and more extreme and beautiful as we went along, so I’ll lay the photos out in the same order we saw them…

First glimpse of the National Park across the lake

About a 10 minute drive into the park… This was the view

Standard Tourist Photo… For The Win

“Mirror Lake” Very Pretty.

Mirror Lake again, this is one of my favourite photos from the day

All Smiles.

Big valley thing. There’s a river out of shot, which was sooo loud.

Enjoying the view

Another Tourist Photo

The driver did tell me the name of this river. But I forgot. Oops.

Waterfall

Entering the ‘avalanche risk zone’.

You can see the marks of past avalanches.

Yay for nature.

For part 2 of the Milford Sound photos… click here! 🙂

The Best Places to Eat in Queenstown

Whilst we’ve only been here a just under a month – I feel as though I am completely in the right now to write a post about the best places to eat in Queenstown. Granted, there are still lots of places we still need to visit (there is a Japanese restaurant outside our gym, which always smells amazing) but I can always do a Part 2 – once we’ve been to the Japanese place. And also the Burrio place up the road from the gym too.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FOOD PLACES NEAR THE GYM? 

Anyway – Here are our favourite places so far:

Flame: http://flamegrill.co.nz/

Apart from Hawksmoor in London (which also serves up super awesome ribs) – this places is now home to the best ribs I have ever had. 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. 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. The only downside is the size as it’s quite a small restaurant – but this wont affect you if you’re clever enough to ring ahead and book a table (which you definitely should).

FergBurger: http://www.fergburger.com/

Fergburger is like a little hub in the middle of Queenstown. We’ve been there a few times now – and it’s always either bustling or completely full – one a few occasions there have actually been people queuing round the block for one. 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!

Palace on the Lake: http://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. A week in we mistook a Korean place for a Chinese place and had a kind of bizarre meal (I guess it was OK though….) but then we finally found a normal Chinese place, that was soo good. I keep trying to find excuses to go back. Is it Chinese New Year anytime soon? No? Damn.

Hell Pizza: http://hellpizza.com/

I’m pretty sure one of the first things you do when you move to a new place is order pizza take-out? You know, when you haven’t been shopping yet and you haven’t got anything in the cupboards! Hell Pizza is amazing – So much good pizza yummyness. They also do this thing (which is beyond awesome) where you can play ‘Pizza Roulette’ and in one slice of pizza (but they don’t tell you which) they pile in loads of hot chilli’s into the sauce. Oh an the pizza box makes scary faces too. Which is cool.

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.

Places we still need to visit: 

– The Japanese place near the gym

– The Queenstown Grill @ The Hilton

– Winnies Pizza (Update: We just went here, it’s veryyyy good! Awesome bar area too). 

– The Burrito place near the gym

– Breakfast @ Vudu