Daydreaming about our Honeymoon!

The next big holiday Pad and I take will probably be our honeymoon… For two reasons mainly. Firstly, this year we’re going to be pretty busy attending other people’s weddings – which can get pretty pricey and means most of our summer weekends are taken up with hen / stag do’s and the weddings themselves. Secondly, we’re saving up for a wedding – which of course means that the holidays have to be trimmed down a bit, in order to save up for wedding stuff.

So, know that our next big trip together will be our honeymoon, I’m spending at least an hour a day daydreaming about it and the kinds of places we could go. At the moment, we’re planning a mini-moon straight after the wedding, and then a bigger honeymoon (for a month – maybe up to 6 weeks) later in the year.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the mini-moon:

Ibiza 

I love the idea of renting a luxury villa in Europe for 5-7 nights and just having some sunshine and an amazing view and a pool (there has to be a pool… extra points for infinity pools!). I know Ibiza has a reputation for being a party island but I’ve had so many friends and family recommend the island to us now for a more relaxing kind of getaway – that I want to see what all the fuss it about. The areas of Ibiza further away from the party towns look gorgeous, and would be the perfect luxury getaway for a few days straight after the wedding, plus it’s only a few hours by plane (so no jet-lag – yay!). I love how close to the sea we can be, the views we’d have are amazing. I’ve seen some lovely ones and I’m pretty sure I could find our dream holiday villa in Ibiza somewhere.

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The Caribbean

My other choice for the mini-moon is the Caribbean. Pad and I went for the first time last year (for our friend’s wedding!), and loved every second of it. The clear blue sea, the white sandy beaches, the all-inclusive resorts…. we just loved it. You can get direct flights there from here in London, and the packages are really reasonable – so this would be ideal too. It’s a little further away, but the all-inclusive deals make things so effortless, that I don’t think it’d matter to us too much. I’ve been looking at holidays to the Grenadines (which is part of the Caribbean we haven’t yet explored) and the beaches and sunshine send me right into a daydream.

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Here’s what I’ve been thinking for the longer honeymoon….

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND! 

OK, so this bit, we’ve already kind of decided. Pad and I have a love affair with Australia and New Zealand, and ever since we came back 2 years ago we’ve literally been scheming about how we can get back there, and when. It turns out, our honeymoon is the perfect opportunity.

I think we’ll head over to Sydney first (maybe stopping on the West Coast of the USA on the way) and spend a week or so in Sydney – a city which we both fell in love with back in the day. We’ll maybe even try and squeeze in a weekend trip to Hamilton Island too (on the Whitsundays) and do a little reef tour.

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After that, it’s onto Queenstown, a small town in New Zealand’s South Island, where we both lived together a couple of years ago. It’s our ‘special place’ so it’ll be awesome to go back and just enjoy the town again. I don’t think we’ll do much more than that – Queenstown is the place we’re really excited to get back to, so we’ll probably just spend our time there doing all the things we loved. Like eating at our favourite restaurants, taking walks to our favourite places and just standing in awe at the view!

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In a dream world….

We’d love to go to Bora Bora for a week or two – but right now that is way way out of our budget. Maybe for our ten year anniversary!? 😉

Top 5 UK City Break Destinations I Plan to Visit This Year

With a wedding to plan in the next 18 months, I’m going to be booking some UK and Europe

getaways this year, as opposed to the long-haul holidays Pad and I usually go on. We’ll be saving

our next long-haul holiday for the honeymoon probably, which we’re hoping with be in Australia

and New Zealand. So, I thought I’d do a bit of research on some great UK destinations we get visit over the next year,

which might make for some lovely city-break over long weekends. The best thing about all these

places is you can get there via train, rather than plane (hurray – no flying!) which always goes

down with me!

 

1. London

I live in London, so this doesn’t really count for me, but I imagine it’s the best city

destination for other people in the UK who don’t live in London! And you know, even

thought we live in London, sometimes Pad and I will book a central hotel for a night over

the weekend, or go out for afternoon tea, and treat it as a mini holiday. The city is still

beautiful, whether you live here or not, there’s nowhere I’d rather spend the weekend, so

it’s probably a good job I live here! You can book your trip to London with Railbookers.

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2. York

I grew up about an hours drive from York, and whenever it was my birthday, I’d always

ask for a day in York. I love the city, it’s small which makes it perfect for exploring over a

weekend, and it’s got so many cute little attractions and things to do and see. My

favourites have to be the York Minster, The Shambles (like stepping into a Harry Potter

movie!) and one of my favourite restaurants, called Oscar’s.

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3. Edinburgh

My boyfriend (now fiancé!) is desperate to go to back up to Scotland, so I think we’ll be

planning a little jaunt up North sometime soon. I’m keen to stay in the city for a couple of

days and explore the castle and shopping (of course), and then perhaps rent a car and

explore the local countryside afterwards for another few days. Pad has mentioned visiting

Loch Lomand which is a few hours drive from the city – and it looks beautiful so that fine

by me!

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4. Brighton

My FAVOURITE day trip from London, and one of my favourite summer-cities in the UK.

Brighton is so quirky and cute, and it HAS A BEACH so it’s already better than 90% of

places in the UK. Pad and I are frequent visitors to the city, but haven’t been in quite a

while, so we’ll definitely be going a couple of times this year, seen as it’s so close! My top

tip for visiting Brighton, is to ignore all the mainstream high street shops, and head

towards The Lanes (which is full of independent shops and boutiques).

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5. Stratford Upon Avon

Just outside of Birmingham, and famous for its links to Shakespeare, this little city is so

pretty and quaint. It’s great for pad and I, because we have family in Birmingham, heading

to Stratford Upon Avon is only a short train ride from there. It’s the kind of place you just

want to stroll around, stopping off in the little shops and cafes, etc.

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My new year plans in NYC…!

If you didn’t know, New York City is my favourite place on earth. There’s nowhere quite like it.

Pad and I have been to NYC a few times now, we’ve been in Autumn and Summer, but never during the Christmas season – so this year is the year… and we couldn’t be more excited!

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We’ll be flying out on the 29th of December and returning on January 7th 2015 – so we’ll get to ring in the new year in NYC, and see the last of the festive celebrations… ever since I first watched Home Alone as a 5 year old, I’ve always wanted to stand under the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

On a side note… did anyone else know you could get flights to New York with Thomas Cook Airlines? I had no idea – and they’re REALLY CHEAP. Not an airlines I’d ever think to check (unless it’s with an all inclusive holiday) so that was a pleasant surprise!

So what do we have planned? 

Well, a few weeks ago I booked us tickets to see the basket ball (Harlem Globe Trotters to be precise) at Madison Square Garden – which is something Pad and I have always want to go see but never timed it right before. We have the crappest tickets in the stadium (I think we’ll need a telescope to see the ball!), but it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m so excited! Bring on the nachos and giant foam hand!

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I’m also desperate to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the new Broadway version of Disney’s Aladdin. I think it’ll end up only being one or the other, because the tickets are so bloody expensive…. so I’m going to have to make that tough decision at some point! Eeeek.

I have a feeling Disney will win out though (I’m a huge Disney fanatic) – and I’m so curious to see how they do the whole flying carpet thing… I’d probably go for that reason alone!

I’d also like to walk along the high-line this time we’re in NYC too, which is an elevated walkway on an abandoned old railway line. It’s something I’ve heard really great things about but never got round to, so this time it’s on my definite to-do list.

I feel like the more we visit NYC the more and more I fall in love with it. We know the city pretty well now, and whilst we still love the fun tourist things, it’s always fun to dig a little deeper and find those local attractions too, in neighbourhoods a little further afield.

Where will we be eating? 

We’ll be heading to lots of our old favourites, places we’ve been before and loved. These include:

Fette Sau BBQ in Brooklyn

Quality Meats (we’re actually going to be eating here on new years eve)

Katz Deli (best sandwiches ever….)

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But we’ll also be trying out some new places too. I’ve booked us in for a meal at Bo’s restaurant (can’t wait to try the fried chicken) but I’ve also heard great things about Taureau too, which is a restaurant entirely made up of fondue menu items. Yum? Yes!

Where will we be staying? 

We’ll actually be stopping in three different hotels, all luxury, quirky and beautiful. I chose them all because they offer something a bit different and special – and I just can’t wait to reveal which ones they are! Stay tuned!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share more info with you about the trip – not long now! :)

Are you going anywhere exciting for New Years Eve?

If you want to read about my new years eve in Sydney, click here!

 

Learning how to live with a holiday allowance

As a student and during my year travelling after university, I never had to worry about a holiday allowance. Summer holidays were weeks and weeks of endless time for wasting away – and the possibilities were endless (so long as you’d saved up enough of that left over student loan).

As an adult it’s much more difficult – and the one thing I struggle with is the holiday allowance.

I just hate having a cap on my freedom (which is what a holiday allowance feel like most of the time).

25 days? I COULD SPEND 25 DAYS IN ONE PLACE IN ONE GO.

But 25 is actually pretty lucky. In my first job I had only 20 days (ouch) and I know US friends who have even less than that.

I thought I’d write about how to make the most of those precious allotted days, and also thought I’d put feelers out to see if anyone had any clever tricks and tips for making the most of them – which I hadn’t thought of yet. So please leave me suggestions in the comment section 😉

1. Make the most of weekends

If you book 5 days off from Monday to Friday – you technically get a 9 day holiday, if you include the two weekends either side. This is stretching your allowance that little bit further, which is what everyone wants!

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2. Bank holidays are your friend

March and April in the UK are bank holiday hot-spots (especially Easter). I know prices always go up around this time, but making the most of those 2/3 free-days is crucial. It potentially means you could have a mini getaway without using any of your allotted holiday days. Bonus!

3. Find short-haul locations that feel like they’re long-haul

For me, I love the feeling of jetsetting far away, but I know that the time it takes to travel – and the time jetlag can waste away isn’t the most efficient solution to my itchy feet. If you can get somewhere in a few hours, that feels far enough away to satisfy that wanderlust, then not only do you avoid jet lag (hurrah!) but you save time and holiday days too. Last week Pad and I took a 5 hour over-night train journey to Cornwall. It was amazing to be somewhere completely different in so little time, and without the jet-lag and airport stress.

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4. Negotiate un-paid vacation days

Some companies will let you take unpaid vacation days, if you’re absolutely desperate to jam in a little more travelling. Sure – you won’t get paid for those days like you would normal vacation days – but if you have seriously itchy feet, this could be the way around it.

5. Use the time-difference to your advantage 

If you’re travelling long-haul then keep in mind the time difference – and try and think how you can use this to your advantage. For example, when flying to Asia or Thailand from the UK, you actually arrive maybe a day (or two sometimes!) after you took off (technically speaking) so you loose a bit of time there. On the way back however, you gain that time back, which is pretty handy for getting over the jet-lag before starting work again.

6. Make use of business trips

Some people travel for work to pretty nice places (my boyfriend often goes to the States for conference speaking) and when this occurs, he’ll often book some vacation days either side and spend time in the city he’s flown into. It means he gets some time in a new city.

 

My next trip…. Is VENICE!

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

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

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

Where will I be staying? 

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

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

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

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

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Who are we flying with? 

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

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

What will we be doing? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The City-Break Vs Beach Dilemma

I can never decide which I prefer; a beach break or a city break. I tend to swap and switch between the two depending on what mood I’m in.

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When I was travelling in Australia, we visited beach after beach for about a month – and it was stunning. But don’t get me wrong, after a month of sandy shoes and salty hair – I was ready for a stopover in Singapore to soak up city life.

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For me it also depends on the time of year. I love jetting off to cities in the summer – there’s no better time to meander around the city sights than summer, and you’d be surprised how easily you can catch the sun when you’re sightseeing too. Oh and you BURN SO MANY CALORIES on a city break (what with all that walking around) that you can absolutely pig-out in the evening. Whether that be a pizzeria in Rome, or a slab of ribs in NYC.

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For beach holidays, I find winter works best. You can escape the dreary UK weather and find yourself somewhere completely different (and let’s face it, much nicer) in a few hours. In the UK, winter can seem a bit never-ending, so it’s awesome when you can break it up with some sunshine and a beautiful beach. I appreciate beaches much more when I know the alternative back home is rain and puddles.

The last beach holiday I went on was to the Dominican Republic, and it was just stunning. We went in March (and escaped some pretty grim weather in the UK) and had perfect summer sunshine the entire time. I think the Dominican republic might be up there in my favourite beach locations now.

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You can have both though.

Some cities have the best of both worlds. They have sunshine, sea, sand but also skyscrapers. My favourite ‘best of both world’ vacation spots are probably Dubai and Sydney. You have the perfect mixture of beach life and city life in those places.

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I was curious to see which other destination were popular choices and stumbled across this mini infographic by Hotels4U. They did a poll and asked people where their favourite beach and city destinations were – and I’ll be honest, the results surprised me!

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I think the thing I found most surprising was that Dublin got the number one spot for cities! I’ve been to Dublin, and whilst I did enjoy my little break in Ireland – it wouldn’t enter my top 5 of cities, or even my top ten. The nightlife was great, and the people were great – but apart from that I thought Dublin was just your average European city. I needed more landmarks and more ‘epicness’.

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Where are your favourite beach and city locations? 

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

I’m going to Paris!

Ever since we got back from travelling in the summer, I’ve been dreaming of our next trip away – and it’s finally all organised which is so exciting! Pad and I are going to head to beautiful Paris for my birthday (9th November) for a few days. I can’t wait – I grew up visiting Paris and France during the school holidays, so it’s a place really close to my heart. Pad has never been to Paris too – so I’m so excited to show him around and see what he thinks.

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I know straight off that he’s going to love the food… so that’s one thing I can count on! What with all the meat, cheese, bread and wine – I can hardly see where you can go wrong!? I plan on eating 4/5 meals a day. You have to make the most of these things…..!!

How are we getting there? 

I didn’t really want to get on a plane again for a while after travelling, so the Eurostar seemed like the perfect option of transport. I’ve never actually used the Eurostar before (so I’m unnecessarily excited for it!) and the idea of getting a train to a whole other country seems so easy and stress-free. I’m hoping it lives up to my expectations!

So where will we be staying? 

The hotel we’ve chosen is called Hotel Felicien and is actually brand new so we’ll be some of the first people to stop there – I think it opened officially a few days ago. It’s located on the Left Bank, and is only a short walk to the Eiffel Tower – which will be lovely (and save our feet when sightseeing!).

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The main thing that attracted me to it was the modern decor and the central location. It’s always nice to have somewhere romantic to come back to during city breaks – because during the day you exhaust yourselves so much walking around all the things to do and see. It’s nice to have somewhere a bit special to come home to. Another thing we quickly noticed after months of travelling together through big cities is you really start to realise just how valuable a central location is! Oh, and there’s a hot tub on the roof!

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What are we going to do? 

I’m hoping…. as much as we possibly can! I want to cram in all the touristy things, but also just take some time to enjoy the Paris culture and the food and the cafe culture too. Here are some blog posts I’ve been reading for inspiration!

http://ideasaroundthecorner.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-weekend-in-paris.html

http://mrsoaroundtheworld.com/2013/01/21/a-lux-weekend-in-paris-with-avenuestory/

http://wonderfulwanderings.com/girls-weekend-in-paris-our-itinerary/

http://www.roamingtales.com/2012/05/09/paris-weekend/

I’ll talk more about what we did in more detail after we get home of course! With plenty of photos too – I’m not going to lie – the photos are probably what I’m most excited for! My camera has felt a bit neglected since we got home from travelling.

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I’d absolutely love any recommendations for restaurants, cafes (or anything else really) – so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Tips and Advice for Travelling Together as a Couple.

I was always going to travel.

Whether it was on my own or maybe with a friend (or boyfriend as it so happened to transpire!). It was something I always wanted to do, and always planned to do.

Having met Pad 3 years ago and after realising we both wanted to make our travel dreams happen, I felt so privileged to be able to share such a life-changing experience and such an exciting adventure with someone who I loved so much. Not many people get to do that, and now I can’t imagine seeing the world without him by my side.

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But it’s not easy, and travelling does test your relationship unlike any other life-experience or situation can. It’s almost like a pressure cooker for relationships, and we found, even after only a year travelling together, that we managed to cram in 5 years worth of experiences. Our relationship became so much stronger in our year travelling, than it ever was whilst we lived in London, and that is a gift in itself.

So I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, and offer up a bit of personal advice to other couples planning on hitting the road together. But this doesn’t just apply to romantic couples, I think a lot of this advice (albeit, maybe not every point I’ll make) also applies to friends travelling together too.

1. Be patient.

This is just common sense, but you need to always have patience with your partner and with yourself. Pad and I were constantly with each other 24/7 for around 9 months – and we leant on each a lot. In every day life, you’d probably never spend this much full-on time with each other, so having that patience is really important. Be quick to forgive and don’t linger on things that get in the way of you enjoying your experience together.

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Never forget how lucky you are and where you are. Little things don’t need to matter so try not to blow things out of proportion.

2. Play to your strengths.

Different people have different skills, so make sure you identify these. Pad always keeps hold of our passports of and documents when we take flights because airports stress me out enough, what with my fear of flying. Having to worry about passports and boarding passes on top of that would push me over the edge! On the other hand, I love to plan and organise things – so the majority of the planning and the routes we took, were organised by me months before we even left.

3. Understand and accept that things will go wrong.

When you travel together, the likelihood is, one of you is going to get ill or injured – or whatever else could possibly happen. During travelling I managed to slice open my finger whilst zip-lining, get stomach flu twice and get terrible “I need to sleep all day” jet-lag in more than a few destinations. These things could have ruined the trip if we’d have let ourselves get worried or worked up – but we just let it pass. When I had stomach flu, Pad looked after me so well and I was so thankful to have him there, otherwise I would have been a miserable mess. When I sliced open my finger and got lumbered with a £98 medical bill,  it would’ve been so easy to feel sorry for myself – but Pad made me see the funny side and in the end it was kind of hilarious. Always force the other person to see the bright-side, and keep each other smiling. It could always be worse!

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4. Be a team. 

Leave any selfishness at the door, because it just doesn’t work when you travel together as a couple. If you have a team mentality about your relationship, then things become naturally easy, and suddenly those little problems don’t matter anymore.

5. Find your triggers.

Every relationship has certain triggers which might cause stress or worry or arguments. Saying that, Pad and I are pretty lucky because we very rarely argue anyway. However I would still go out of my way to avoid a situation I know might cause tension. Sometimes it’s as simple as arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare (so you don’t need to rush each other). For lots of couples it’s the financial side of travelling that can cause stress, so make sure you’ve sorted this and budgeted thoroughly before you leave. By doing this, hopefully it will never be an issue, and will never prevent you from having fun.

6. Other couples make great company. 

We travelled with our amazing friends Harriet and Ben for parts of our trip, and they made fantastic travelling companions. Travelling with another couple means you create a nice balance as a group, and it means no one is ever left out or isolated. On a more practical side, it also means when the girls want to go shopping – the boys can go enjoy a pint. Then everyone is happy.

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7. Realise that it’s OK to be different. 

Some days it’s OK to spend time apart. It’s normal for you to want to explore something, and for it to be completely uninteresting to your partner. This usually happened with shopping for us…. I love shopping and bargaining and wandering aimlessly through markets and shops. Whereas Pad could just as happily give that a miss. The moment you realise it’s OK to spend a few hours apart here and there, it’ll take the pressure off. I wouldn’t expect Pad to fake an interest in shopping just for my benefit – I’d much rather he spend that time doing something that makes him happy.

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Pad taking some ‘me’ time

8. Surprise each other. 

Keep surprising each other and keep making those little romantic gestures. Pad surprised me in Las Vegas by booking a Limo to pick us up from the airport, which was wonderful… and it meant so much that he’d thought that far ahead, just to make me smile. Try and keep making an effort too, for example, every few weeks take yourselves out for a nice meal and dress up in your best clothes and treat yourselves.  It can be easy to forget to go on ‘a date’ when you travel together – because you’re with each other all the time anyway. But I think it makes a big difference, and those nights are often the ones you remember the most because they felt special.

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How Amazing is the Grand Canyon?!

When we managed to squeeze a week in Las Vegas into our US leg of the trip – I knew for sure I wanted to go and explore The Grand Canyon. It’s been one of those things that I’ve always wanted to see, so I knew (even despite the probable hangover I would have) the early morning and long drive out there from Vegas would be totally worth it. And it totally was.

It’s hard to do places like this justice with words (which is why I take so many photos….) but I’ll give it my best shot.

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The drive out to the canyon is long and we left our hotel at about 6am (!!), but compared to some of the drives we did in Australia, it seemed pretty tame. Plus we did our canyon tour with Pink Jeeps, which meant we had majorly comfortable seating too. I remember this one coach we got whilst in NZ, from Queenstown to Christchurch that lasted about 12 hours, and I’m not even kidding the bus was so shaky and horrible I had to buy sea-sickness tablets from a garage along the way. So in comparison, our pink jeep ride seemed preety luxurious  It even had a TV…. not that we watched it – we were too busy staring out of the window!

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The canyon itself is everything you imagine it to be. It’s huge, hot and absolutely indescribable. It was bizarre looking out into the horizon and knowing that this enormous hole in the ground carries on for miles and miles beyond what you can even see. And it’s not just that – it’s the scale of the canyon too – the sheer drops and the cliff faces. I know it sounds silly – but I was expecting there to be fences and tape around the edges so clumsy people (like me) don’t fall off.

But there wasn’t.

Seriously, there is no protection from falling. Which made it dangerous and kind of cool. I did stay way clear of the edge at all times though – because when you are as naturally accident prone as me (I’ve broken both my arms in the past) you just know that if something is going to go wrong, it’s you who will be in the centre of it all. I could even see Pad keeping a beady eye on me whenever I stumbled over around the cliff edges – he knows me too well apparently.

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Our day tour included a helicopter flight down to the bottom of the canyon, and a rover boat ride too which was such a nice break. The helicopter was amazing – and we were lucky enough to be in an odd-numbered group, so scored the entire helicopter to ourselves. Now, I’ve been in a helicopter before (when I NYC, 3 years ago with Pad) and that time I think I was so overwhelmed by the Manhattan skyline that I kind of forgot I was even in a helicopter and hovering way above the ground.

This time, we used the helicopter to descend into the canyon, and (oh my gosh) were we close to those canyon walls. It was definitely beautiful to see the canyon emerge all around you as you glide into it from above – but all I could think was:

“oh please oh please let us land safely and not crash into the canyon wall” 

Pad being the adrenaline junky he is was loving every second though, his little face was lit up like a child at christmas time. He had the advantage of being sat in the front with the pilot too – so I think it was even more thrilling up front, because of the big glass window, you could literally see right down to the canyon floor. Luckily, I had a smaller window that only faced out, rather than out and down.

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This is my “I’m so scared, I might wee myself” face.

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This is Pad, sitting on the very edge. Look how un-clumsy he is. Not falling or anything. 

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One of the most truly beautiful things to watch was actually the cloud shadows, and how they roll across the canyon floor. I tried to capture it in a few of the photos above, but to be honest, it needed a video clip to really convey just how stunning it is. It’s like watching some amazing time-lapse piece, except it’s not – and it’s right there infront of you. The complete darkness of the shadows against the bright orange of the canyon rock is just magical.

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Notice how, even in this ‘daring’ photo I still keep at least 60cm from the edge. Actually during this photo this big gust of wind blew (which is why my hair looks a bit crazy) and I did have a split second where I thought “I really hope I’m stood far enough away. Otherwise this is it”.

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Would I go again? Of course. For me it lived up to all the hype and all the expectations I had. We didn’t bother going on the Sky Walk thing they have there now, because it’s like $30 and you’re not even allowed to take your camera on with you…. (what’s with that?) but you don’t need to stand on some fancy platform to appreciate how incredible a landscape like this is.

Just go and stand anywhere – you can’t exactly miss the view.

 

Round The World Packing and Planning Essentials

It’s officially less than two weeks until we set off on the second half of our round the world adventure. The first half has been amazing, but couldn’t be much more different to what we have planned for the following months if it tried.

For those first 6 months – we’ve been based in New Zealand (Queenstown to be precise) and having a base, and a beautiful apartment to keep all our goodies in meant we didn’t need to overly worry or fuss about packing. It’s not like we’ve been living out of our suitcases in New Zealand, we’ve had our own apartment, and even a spare bedroom for friends and family to sleepover in when they visited. Even when we’ve jetted off around Oz and NZ, we’ve been able to pack only what we needed – because anything we didn’t need was safe back in Queenstown waiting for our return.

The next half of our journey is going to be miles different though. What makes it different?

Firstly, it’s going to be non-stop, we’re literally heading from one place to another and never spending more than 10 days in the same location.

Secondly, we’re having to pack for all eventualities and climates – there is no base we can store our stuff in until we need it. It all has to come, all the time.

And thirdly, we only have 20kgs for the entire trip.

Which makes packing for this leg of the adventure a whole new ball game. 

I actually started packing a few days ago – a whole 2 weeks in advance. Packing doesn’t excite me (although I do enjoy it in a “oooh rolling my socks” kind of way) it’s more the fact I was so aware how unprepared I was for this leg of the trip. Coming out to NZ from London at the very beginning, I managed to get away with 32 kgs of luggage which all fit in my monster sized suitcase…. and 2/3 airlines didn’t even charge me for it (bonus) so I really scored there. And got super lucky.

But all our flights for this second leg have strict 20kg allowances (so through some miracle) I knew I was going to have to cut down my suitcase by at least a third. Which, as any dress (and shoe) loving female will tell you – is not going to equal a smiling happy girl.

I did get lucky though, as I’ve actually dropped just over a stone in weight since moving to NZ, so a lot of clothes I brought with me had to be chucked simply because they were too big. So a few things have been left behind by default. Which is OK. I figure I can deal with that if they don’t even fit me anymore. So that has helped a little bit with the whole process. Pad has also lost a lot of weight – and half of his shorts and trousers now hang off him, especially his jeans – which I was insistent we throw out because they were literally like 70’s flares they were so big on him.

So here is my packing list of essentials.

Note: there is obviously other stuff not on this list, that is coming too – I’m no packing ninja. Even when I cut down it’s still more than the average person takes. I guess I just like variety. And dresses. Lots of dresses. And shoes. And my teddy bear. 

I wasnt’ kidding…. 

round the world packing essentials teddy bear

 

1. Sunglasses (prescription) 

I only just got my first pair of prescription sunglasses last year – and they’ve literally changed my life. I used to be even more blind in sunglasses than in regular light with my normal glasses – because you have the darkness added into the mix… so I pretty much avoided sunglasses full stop. Anyway – point is I’d never go anywhere now without these. If you wear glasses and you haven’t yet got yourself some prescription sunglasses – do it! Especially before travelling.

round the world packing essentials

2. A decent backpack

I won’t be using my backpack during the day when we’re sight-seeing (I have a nice lady-like bag for then) but I do use it when we fly, as my hand luggage – because you really get your money’s worth with a backpack. I can fit pretty much everything in mine, including; my kindle, laptop, headphones, tablet, passports, travel journal, water bottle, camera, hoody, neck cushion and bear. A decent backpack lasts for years, so it’s totally worth the investment.

round the world packing essentials

3. My Cameras

For this round the world trip I have two cameras with me. One is my (pride and joy – non-human child) compact mirrorless SLR by Sony. The other is a cheap waterproof compact I found in New Zealand. It cost about £30, and will mean I can take a few photos and videos underwater when we visit places like The Great Barrier Reef…. Fun! Not sure what the quality will be – but for £30 I can’t complain – I’m sure they’ll be good enough!

round the world packing essentials

4. Plug Adapters

The things you always forget and then have to buy super expensively at the airport: thought I’d be ahead of the game for our RTW trip and stock up on adapters before leaving. We managed quite well actually – as a few of the countries we’re visiting double up adapter wise.

round the world packing essentials

5. Medical Stuff

I’m super clumsy, so this was a no-brainer. And to be honest – it should be even if you aren’t clumsy. We have a stomach-bug kit with antibiotics, painkillers, plasters, bandages and an inhaler. Of course we have insurance and stuff too – which will keep any medical bills down (if the worst does happen) but having a quick fix in our luggage might be all we need. So it’s good to have these basics on hand.

round the world packing essentials

6. This Book

Because I promised someone I would take it with me. And I keep promises. Are you impressed I still have it Eve? 😉

oh the places you'll go book

7. A neck cushion

We have about 11 flights, and 6 coach journeys scheduled during our RTW trip – so this is beyond a necessity. If you struggle to sleep in uncomfortable places (like the afore mentioned transportation methods) then a neck cushion is quite literally going to become your new best friend. I’ve had this one ages because it’s the perfect combination of firm, squishy and snuggly. Worth every penny I paid for it. Tens times over. If you don’t like neck cushions (or can’t find one you like) a good, thick hoody will often do too, because you can roll it up.

round the world packing essentials neck cushion

8. Trainers

A decent pair of trainers is so important – which I discovered early on in the trip when we first arrived in New Zealand. If you’re planning on doing lots of hiking, walking or even adventure activities (like bungee jumping, etc) then you’ll need a good, stable pairs of shoes like this.


round the world packing essentials trainers

9. Light Clothing

I’ve already mentioned my love of dresses…. but another important thing to remember is to pack light clothing. We’re lucky because most of the countries we’re visiting will be hot and humid (or at least sunny) so we’re only really packing for one weather type. Basically I’m trying to pack clothes that are made of light, floaty materials – not only because they’re less weight in my luggage – but also because they’re quicker to dry too (when washing clothes) and they’re more comfortable to wear in hot climates. Remember to pack at least one long sleeved and long-legged outfit too though – for when you’re visiting temples. As anything too short or revealing will be disrespectful.

round the world packing essentials dresses clothing

10. Magazines

I love my Kindle – but I also love magazines. I figure magazines are like the equivalent of “trashy TV” if reading a proper book is the equivalent of watching good oscar winning movie. But sometimes your brain wants the trashy stuff, and sometimes I’m not patient enough to sit down and read properly – because I just don’t have the concentration on some flights. So you’ll never find me without a couple of magazines.

round the world packing essentials magazines

11. Travel Socks

On my way to New Zealand 6 months ago I got the worst swollen feet ever. I’ve never actually experienced swollen feet before – and I’m not keen on repeating the experience. So I bought these long circulation socks. Hopefully they’ll work? Fingers (and toes) are crossed.

round the world packing essentials socks circulation

12. Insect Repellant

I seem to be a magnet for insects and mozzies, so I’ve well and truly stocked up on repellant for the next leg of our trip. I’ve got regular repellant, DEET repellant (praise the lord, they actually sell it in NZ) and also bite soother. DEET isn’t too great to have on your skin (it’s a bit greasy and icky, and it takes my nail varnish off) but it works a miracle at keeping the bugs away – so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. We’ll be in some pretty buggy places (such as Fraser Island in Oz) so this wasn’t something we could skip.  

round the world packing essentials insect repellant

13. Lip Balm

I always seem to get dry lips after long-haul flights, so this is one of my absolute essentials. Carmex is the best I’ve ever come across.

round the world packing essentials lip balm carmex

14. Beach Towel

We’ll be staying in a mix of accommodation on our RTW trip – and one thing you never usually get included (unless you’re in a 5* resort, and sometimes not even then) is a beach towel. Sure you get bath towels, but beach towels have to be a little bigger and little more snugglier. We managed to grab a couple in a sale last month – so now we both have lovely beach towels.

beach towel round the world packing essentials

15. Waterproof vanity case

If you’ve ever had a Ross from friends moment (where his shampoo explodes in his bag) then you’ll know how important waterproof vanity cases are. Last thing you want is a sticky suitcase because something leaked or popped in there during a flight. At least this keeps the mess contained.

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16. Noise Cancelling Headphones

This is more one of Pad’s items, than mine. He is obsessed with these Bose headphones. But I totally get it – they are awesome. They block out all engine noise when you’re on a plane, and they’re so comfortable too. Definitely the best headphones either of us have ever used.

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17. Travel Journal

This has been an ongoing project since new year – and I’ve been writing and documenting everything we’ve been doing since we arrived in New Zealand. It has notes, planning (for future destinations) memories, photos, maps – basically everything we need for our trip – and then everything we’ll want to remember. It’s probably one of my most treasured possessions now, and definitely the one thing I’d hate to loose!

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18. Photos

I love taking photos when I travel with my digital camera – but I’ve also been collecting instant photos too – which I’ll keep doing when we set of around the world. My plan is to have an instant photobooth print from every country we visit.

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There are a few other things you’ll want to remember – which might make the whole journey more comfortable. For example – even if you’re only visiting hot countries – you’ll still want a hoody or big jumper for when you’re on a flight. Those cabin crew like using their AC so make sure you’ve got something other than the airline blanket to keep you warm. Talking of airlines, if you’re jetting around the world on multiple flights – why not start collecting air miles or join a frequent flyer program. If not that, then join an air lounge club to make all that time in the airport more enjoyable instead. Another option alongside this is to join as a member of an accommodation booking website, where you can collect rewards or points every time you book with them. I wish I’d done this when we were booking our accommodation, we’d have so many free nights if I’d claimed on them!

 

What did you take around the world? Have I left anything important off this list? 

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.

 

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!

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.

Is it time yet? Counting down the days.

Almost exactly one week until we leave. I think we’re both pretty eager to just go now, get settled into our new home and start having some adventures. You can tell we’re getting close to the moving date because gradually our flat is getting more and more empty by the second.

I have actually already done 2 trial packs (that sounds really annoying and over-organised) but it is for no other reason than I need to know the exact number of dresses and shoes I can take with me. As someone with over 100 dresses and over 20 pairs of shoes – downsizing to a single suitcase (albiet a big one) hasn’t been easy. Some have gone into storage. Some have gone to new homes. Some have gone in the bin. Yes there have been tears.

I’m still grieving.

In fact – Aside from securing Visas and securing the house – it’s been the most-hard bit about the whole trip. So far. 

At the beginning the whole suitcase situation looked like this actually…

So needless to say, I have made a vast improvement. We’re only a little bit overflowing now. If all else fails I will just cram stuff into Pad’s suitcase since he has a bizarrely small amount of possessions. All his possessions are Apple. Which I guess limits him somewhat to choice. Quality over Quantity they say?

Aside from packing – there are three other hugely important girl-travel-decisions that need to be made.

These being: 

1. What do I wear on the plane? I need a comfy mix of “nice dress and civilised person” but also “comfy sleeping gear and practical for a completely different climate upon arrival”. This is (and always will be) one of the biggest, most annoying choices I ever make. I hate dressing for flights. I wish I could just rock up in duvet and sleep, but it is never this easy. Nothing ever is with planes. 

This is the dream.

2. What TV show do I choose for the plane? I made a huge mistake earlier in the month. I downloaded the entire series of American Horror Story and watched it all in the space of a weekend. I am hugely picky with TV shows – and the fact that this one got me so hooked that I watch all the first series in 3 days – should have been a clear sign of “SAVE IT FOR THE PLANE RIDE ELLIE”. But I didn’t listen to my inner sensible brain, and now I am stuck with nothing to watch. I was considering Game of Thrones (after both Eve and Ronan both recommended it) but for some reason it is not available on iTunes. Which is very frustrating. Paddy’s boss Will recommended The West Wing to me last week – which I am now going to look into. But these are tough times. What if The West Wing isn’t on iTunes either!?

Suggestions would be welcomed. Please!

3. What music do I download on the plane? This is not so much a problem, just a general wondering and something I need to get done. I am thinking lots of Taylor Swift. I am also thinking the Inception Soundtrack and maybe the Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack. Maybe also the Titanic Soundtrack. And some Disney. That seems about right. I really like Soundtracks.

Aside from this. I think we’re all good. 

Oh, and I hope there is snow on the mountains when we arrive because I want to do some skiing before it all melts.

What I’m looking forward to in Queenstown

I figured it was about time I contributed to this blog too given that Ellie has done most of the work so far!  So I wanted to talk a little about Queenstown and why we chose it as our base whilst in New Zealand.

I’ve been to Queenstown before and loved the place.  It was the place where I did my first skydive and the first time I did a bungee jump.

1. Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown sits on the shore of one of the most stunning lakes I’ve ever seen and I’m struggling to find photos that do it justice.  But here is an attempt:

The boat that you see in this picture does tours of the lake and I was fortunate to go on this last time I was there.  Lake Wakatipu is also surrounded by a mountain range called the Remarkables:

As Ellie posted earlier, we’ve been lucky enough to find somewhere to live where we will have views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.  I have to admit, the idea of sitting on our balcony with my laptop and a coffee is super appealing!

 2. Fergburger

Words cannot describe how good the burgers are at Fergburger.  I mean, even the menu makes my mouth water.  They are bloody huge too:

I made the mistake of ordering fries with mine when I went to Fergburger for the first time – suffice to say I didn’t need them!

3. The adrenaline capital of New Zealand

Queenstown has over 300 activities available to keep anyone entertained, from relaxing boat trips right through to skydiving and jet boat rides. Ellie isn’t as excited as me about the prospect of doing this again:

Neither is she keen on the idea of me doing this again:

Personally, I can’t wait!

 

We’ve got somewhere to live!

Although we haven’t actually arrived yet – we have (through our huge levels of awesomeness) managed to secure a house before arriving. Risky tactics you might be thinking – yes true, considering we haven’t actually viewed the place. But actually, the place we’ve got is pretty sweet! And beyond our expectations, needless to say – we are very excited.

 

The main things on our “house list” were:

– A water view. Not like a puddle outside the front door – an actual genuine veiw of either sea or lake, with boats and fish. 

– A balcony. I like drinking orange juice in the morning. It is my dream to do this on a balcony not just at the kitchen table. 

– 2 bedrooms. Because one just isn’t enough. 

– Close to the city centre. Because we want constant and frequent access to Fergburger.

– Nice decor. Not like a 1970s throw back. 

 

So anyway, this list is the one we were working from. I whole heartedly admit I have absolutely been stalking the NZ rental website ever since we decided we were going to do the move. We’ve seen houses come and go that were perfect for us – and then we made sad faces when we realised they’d probably not be available when our move date finally arrived.

And then.

We found this one. The moving date is perfect, it ticks all our “list” stuff and it’s just really nice.

http://www.trademe.co.nz/property/residential/to-rent/auction-503809371.htm

And it is perfect.

The end.

Stuff we still need to do. This post is boring.

This post is boring – don’t bother reading it unless you are Ellie and Paddy. Not in order of need-to-be-completedness.

– Print out visas

– Book Auckland SkyCity Hotel

– Find somewhere to live in QT

– Book London Hotel for last night in UK

– Pack

– Renew drivers license

 

Private Paddy to-do list

– Don’t loose passport between now and September 29th

– Don’t sleep in on morning of September 29th

– Buy Ellie Haribo for the flight

– Buy Ellie first class upgrade

 

the plan so far

So here’s the plan.

Pad and I will be moving to New Zealand. It’s really far away and it will take us 3 different flights, over 3 days to get to where we’ll be living. The final destination will be a place called Queenstown. I’ve never been there but Pad assures me it by far the nicest most beautiful place he’s ever been. Needless to say – there is a lot of trust going on here (and a lot of Googling – especially on my end).

We’ll be flying out on the 29th September – and after recovering in a posh hotel in Auckland for 2 days, we’ll be heading down to Queenstown where we’ll spend a few weeks in a hostel while we find somewhere to live. We actually already applied to a gorgeous little house (I say little – it’s not though. It’s about 3 bedrooms, balcony, lake views…. ski storage) but we’re not sure if our application will get accepted what with us never having viewed the place and currently being situated half way across the globe. But fingers crossed, you never know.

We plan to live there for a while, whilst exploring the sights and sounds of Australia and New Zealand – which will hopefully include Sydney harbour for New Years Eve and various other exciting things such as whale watching, and Tasmania. After we’ve saved up enough money (we’ll both be working freelance while we’re over there) we plan on seeing as much as the world as humanly possibly on the budget we’ll have (hopefully) managed to scrape together.

We’ll hopefully visit:

– Australia

– Tasmania

– Fiji

– Singapore

– Bali

– Thailand

– Vietnam (?)

– China

– Hawaii (?)

– San Francisco

– Seattle

-LA

– Texas

– Florida

– VEGAS BABY

– Mexico (?)

– New York

 

Of course – this is all highly dependant on budget – and the locations with (?) are probably the first to be cut unfortunately as they’re either a little off-route or just hard to get to. And of course – Vegas has to come last – because whatever we have left will pretty much be spent / gambled there. Maybe if we win big, we’ll start the whole loop again – but as I’ve never played poker – and I’m doubtful of Pad’s poker face, this probably won’t be a reality. Sad times. Maybe I’ll start playing online poker to up our odds.