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 crappiest tickets in the stadium (I think we’ll need a telescope or a pair of these 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!

 

My photos of the (very beautiful) Central Park in Autumn

NYC is my long lost true love.

I think of the city as a person, and them and I are forever torn apart by this evil villain called ‘greencard’.

But just because I can’t live there, doesn’t mean I won’t endeavour to visit there as often as I possibly can. Pad and I are regulars in the city now – we’re actually heading over for new years eve this year (yay!) – so I’m mega excited for that. Sure it’ll be cold, but I’ll be the person I love in the place I love, so it doesn’t get more perfect than that.

For now though, here are some beautiful photos I took during a past visit to the city, taken in the middle of November – right in the height of Autumn in Central Park. It’s so stunning, it takes my breath away!

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

If you saw the photos above and thought ‘ wow they’re no even wearing coats’ – for some miraculous reason NYC was having a mid-November heatwave during our visit – so it was unseasonably warm for a few days!

I doubt it’s usually 15 degrees in November!

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

I love the shot of the bridge below – it must be one of NYC’s most romantic spots. I’d love to get a shot of it this year from the same spot, but covered in snow. (UPDATE Jan 2015 – I just did! Check the photos out by clicking here)

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

Central park autumn photo

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Central park autumn photo

What’s your favourite season for taking photos? I must admit I have a weak spot for autumn! There are just so many beautiful colours (especially central park in autumn!) and amazing events to capture, I seem to always have my camera in my bag during October and November.

Central park autumn photo

Review: 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque by Holly Madison

When you’re in Vegas, there is no excuse for not sampling a little bit of the nightlife. There’s something for everyone, and for me the new bar 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque, was just what I was after.

I didn’t fancy anything overly rowdy or jam-packed (I’ve well and truly grown out of my nightclubbing years) but I do love music, cocktails, atmosphere and dancing – so I starting looking around to see if there was a bar that would satisfy all these cravings. That’s when I stumbled across 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque.

It’s a basement bar found hidden away in The Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and it’s designed beautifully to resemble the secret Speak Easy bars that opened during prohibition in the USA back in the day. The stage for the dancers even emerges from a rotating wall, hidden behind liquor bottles and barrels of whiskey.

It really feels like you’re stepping back in time, and it’s perfectly executed.


1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

The dancers perform every 20 – 30 minutes, and between performances the bar blasts out modern music to enjoy whilst you wait. The actual music the dancers perform to varies, some danced to modern music, some to old-school jazz, or remixed Motown. The reason it worked was because you never know what was coming next – but I must admit, I enjoyed the vintage-style dances with the old-school music much more.

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

 

Sometimes the dancers would perform individual dances (each lady had their own specific style) and sometimes they would perform as a group – the group performances were the more typically-burlesque, but they were all incredible and captivated. The women are fantastically talented and you’ll be sat there in awe!

Tip: The dancers do occasionally come out into the audience, and dance on the bar, so if you’re not keen on being too close to the action (and the thought of audience participation fills you with dread) sit on one of the upper tiers as far from the stage as possible. We were sat pretty close to the action – and I loved it – but I can see how some people might shy away from it!

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison
1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

Is it sexy? Of course it is! The shows ambassador is an ex-playboy bunny!

All the dancers are absolutely beautiful and the show is equally tasteful and naughty – perfect for both burlesque beginners, or burlesque lovers.

Whilst the ladies don’t get naked (this isn’t a strip club remember, and the aim of burlesque is to be sexy, without revealing it all) the show won’t disappoint anyone who goes to watch it. The atmosphere is incredible and it’s clear everyone is having a great time. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see an equal number of men and women in the bar too – it seems most people there were either couples, or groups of women.

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

1923 bourbon and burlesque by holly madison

A quick note about the cocktails too – which were delicious! But you didn’t come here to read about cocktails, so let’s not pretend otherwise…!

Would I go again? Absolutely!

Here’s all the crucial info if you fancy popping in yourself: 

Hours of Operation Wednesday – Saturday 7pm to 3am

Phone: (702)912-4001

More information:vip@1923lv.com

Management:avi@1923LV.com

Which bit of Las Vegas nightlife is your favourite? Have you been to 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque?

If you found this blog post helpful – I’d love for you to vote for me in the Trespass Blog Awards. You can vote by clicking here 🙂 Thanks so much! 

 

 

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

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

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

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

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

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

The foundation room mandalay bay

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

The foundation room mandalay bay

A bit of practical info about the bar…

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

Opens at 10:00 p.m. daily.

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

So I’m a little bit in love with The Aria Hotel

I’ve stayed in my fair share of Las Vegas hotels, but my favourite (as of July this year) has to be The Aria. The Aria is one of the newer hotels on the strip and sits just behind The Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Because it’s so new, it has a sleek, modern feel that lots of other hotels in Vegas just don’t have – and that’s what I loved so much about it. The hotel rooms didn’t feel stuffy, old or forgotten – they felt luxurious and I felt spoilt just being in there.

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As always, I asked for a room on a high floor. In any city we visit I always ask at reception for the highest floor they can give us – because I love waking up with a view. We ended up with a room on the second highest residential floor, and the views were pretty spectacular…

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And from the other side of the building…. an amazing view of the the sunset over the Las Vegas mountains in the distance. I kept meaning to do a time-lapse of the sun going down (it was so pretty) but every night I forgot. Vegas will do that to you.

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Just for a little perspective (because, let’s face it, hotel rooms don’t stay tidy for long) here is what the room looked like after we messed it up. Which took about 0.5 seconds after dumping our bags.

As you can see the room is huge and the bed is massive. Proper USA king-sized bed. Which means I can lie stretched out and not even reach both ends. The decor is modern and sophisticated and felt like a kind of luxury ski cabin to me, the only thing to convince me otherwise was the view of Las Vegas out of the window of course.

My only complaint, was the water pressure in the shower. But it didn’t end up annoying me too much. I think I was too distracted by the high-tech room, the black out curtains, posh bathrooms robes and massive mini bar selection to let the shower bother me too much.

The room even had a ‘goodnight’ button which powered down EVERYTHING and automatically closed the curtains when you pressed it. MAGICAL!

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The next thing I loved about the Aria was the poolside area. The older hotels in Vegas don’t really nurture their pool areas as much as they could and I remember being seriously disappointed by the pool areas at New York Hotel when we stayed there as it just felt totally run down and old.

The Aria Hotel’s pool area however is beautiful, spacious and feels like a proper resort. We spent an entire day by the pool and we loved it. There are several pools too – some more rowdy and less family-friendly than others (but balance is the key) and you’d just choose the pool that suits you the most. Poolside drinks are pretty expensive (OK, very expensive) but if you’re smart enough to bring your own drinks down to the pool instead, this isn’t even an issue.

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Look, sooo pretty!

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Oh another lovely little details are the mini heated jacuzzi pools hidden around the pool area. They’re found hiding between trees and cabanas and make a nice little relaxing change to the main pools.

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Here we are looking smug and happy by the pool.

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I feel like the Aria buffet also deserves a mention here – because it’s amazing, and cheaper than some of the major buffets such as Bellagio. I preferred it over the Bellagio buffet too – so that was a pleasant surprise. You can read a full review of the aria buffet here.

Have you been to The Aria Hotel in Las Vegas? What did you think?

 

Photo Post: Beautiful San Francisco and her city streets

I took so many photos in San Francisco, I wanted to do a blog post where I could just show them all to you! It’s a beautiful city full of some beautiful neighbourhoods, coastlines and bridges (there are two, don’t you know).

So here are a few of my favourite San Francisco tourist photos from our most recent trip in July.

Enjoy!

San Francisco tourist photos

This was the first view I got of San Francisco – as I drove over the Bay Bridge. Quite spectacular I think you’ll agree!

San Francisco tourist photos

Just your average San Francisco city street. I loved the old-style houses, but also the bright colours. So pretty!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco’s other bridge – the less famous one! I actually preferred Bay Bridge, I loved capturing it on a wide-angle lens too!

San Francisco tourist photos

Typical tourist snap of me in-front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Taken from a boat tour around the bay.

San Francisco tourist photos

 A bit of street art in downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco tourist photos

Some more beautifully coloured houses, these were taken just off Alamo Park, where some of San Fran’s most famous houses can be found.

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Getting snap happy on the cable cars!

San Francisco tourist photos

View from Little Italy, looking towards downtown. I loved Little Italy and would’ve loved to explore there a little bit more!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

The green building above is one of San Fran’s most iconic and picturesque buildings.

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Looking down into Union Square. Our hotel was called Hotel Zetta, and wasn’t far from here.

San Francisco tourist photos

Looking across the bay from Pier 14, with the beautiful Bay Bridge in shot.

San Francisco tourist photos

The famous Pier 39! We didn’t see as many Sea Lions as I’d have hoped – but they were so damn cute! It must be amazing when all the wooden planks are full with them!

San Francisco tourist photos

I was really taken with this block of apartments – I just thought they were so pretty!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

Below are a few shots from our walk along Chrissy Fields, which has some amazing views of The Golden Gate Bridge, and the beach too. We didn’t get the best weather during this day – but the photos are still gorgeous. There are more photos of The Golden Gate bridge by clicking on this blog post I wrote last week.
San Francisco tourist photos

Taking a selfie in San Francisco isn’t as easy as you’d hope – especially on a windy day! I put a few of our failed attempts below!

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San Francisco tourist photos

Above, our lovely friends Matt, Nic and Baby Jensen – perfect posing!

Below, a few photos from our sunset cruise with Red and White Fleet, around the bay. Which was amazing!

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

San Francisco tourist photos

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Have you been to San Francisco? What were your favourite photo spots in the city? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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!

Top things to do in Las Vegas for couples – Updated for 2019

I know Las Vegas isn’t everyones cup of tea, but when it comes to ranking USA vacation destinations… it has to be the top of the list. and even those who love it may file the city into the ‘stag-do and 21st birthday only’ category. It’s a city I love though, and as someone who’s only ever been as part of a couple, I think it’s the perfect location for a romantic couple getaway because there are so many things to do for couples in Las Vegas.

I thought I’d put together a list of my top things to do in Las Vegas for couples, as I know there are probably a lot of couples out there trying to decide whether or not a holiday to Las Vegas is right for them.

Hopefully this list will convince you it’s awesome (because that’s pretty much my own opinion!) and that there are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas for couples! My husband and I visit every year and we adore it.

Top Tip: Come Prepared

It’s worth coming prepared and buying yourself an entertainment pass for your time in the city. I recommend the one by Get Your Guide (click here to buy). It can save you a load of money on tickets, and can even help you jump the queue in some attractions too.

Go Shopping

I know you might be shaking your head reading this first suggestion, but trust me! Las Vegas is the only place in the world my boyfriend will actually agree to shop, and enjoy it. The malls are huge, and usually themed (which makes it fun!) and there are shops to suit just about every taste and budget. My favourite has to be the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace Hotel – it’s full of handbag shops, jewellery shops, all the main highstreet stores. It’s unlike any mall you’ve ever been in, just see the photos below.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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Take a helicopter ride over the strip

Las Vegas is the kind of city where you go big, or go home. So why not take a helicopter ride? It’s such a romantic thing to do as a couple in Las Vegas, and it’s definitely something you’ll never forget. It’s easy to see the strip from the ground (just take a stroll!) but seeing it from the air is something else – as you really get to see how big some of the hotels and monuments are. I’d highly recommend it – you can book it by clicking here.

Go on a hotel-crawl

Las Vegas has no shortage of hotels, and just making your rounds and seeing them all is a whole day of fun. They’re all themed, and usually have their own special lobby area of attraction. My top picks for couples would be The Paris Hotel (of course!), Caesars Palace (the mall and shows are SO GOOD!), Bellagio, The Wynn (it’s like stepping into a Disney movie), New York New York, The Cosmopolitan (new, sophisticated) and The Venetian. You could even book yourself onto a VIP night tour of the city and see the hotels while experiencing the nightlife too!

top things to do in las vegas for couples

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Experience the High Roller

One of Las Vegas’s newer attractions, the High Roller is a great thing do to for couples in Las Vegas. It’s fun during the day or night too – as both times will offer lots of different views. You can also buy ‘skip the line’ passes too (click here) for those hot summer days, when you don’t want to be queuing in the heat. I’d definitely recommend booking ahead as it can get busy! But the views are worth it… I promise!

Go for cocktails at The Foundation Room, Mandalay Bay

Looking for somewhere glamorous, exclusive and romantic? The Foundation Room is all of those things. It was the highlight of my last trip to Vegas, and my boyfriend and I drank for hours, just talking and enjoying the epic view. You literally won’t find a view to rival the view from Mandalay Bay, there is no other place quite as romantic, and it’s simply magical. The nice thing about The Foundation Room is the vibe it has too – it’s mostly couples and small groups – so you don’t need to worry about a huge stag-do or hen-party coming in and ruining the music / atmosphere or standing in the way of your view over the city.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

Watch The Bellagio Fountains

The Bellagio Fountains are just stunning, and definitely something to make time for. Head there around 8pm, and find yourself a good spot under the trees and towards the centre of the fountains – and you’ll find it’s easy to waste away a couple of hours just watching the fountains come and go every 15 minutes.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

For a slightly different outlook, walk up towards the Bellagio Hotel and watch the fountains from the back instead. You’ll get the view that you see in the photo below. You’ll find a bit more space watching the fountains from over there too which is nice, and the view is just as good!

Take an open top bus tour

Open top bus tours might seem a bit touristy – but they’re a great way to see the city and a good way of getting around too. I recommend booking tickets here – and enjoying a bus tour at night time when the city is lit up and sparkling. The tour lasts for 3 hours, and it flies by – there’s so much to see. This tour also takes you to Fremont Street in Downtown Las vegas – which is a mega fun part of the city and ideal for couples who are visiting.

Visit the Block 16 Food Hall at the Cosmopolitan Hotel

This food hall is new for 2019, but it’s full of delicious food options and makes an ideal thing to do as a couple in las vegas. There are SO MANY food choices, there will be no arguments about what to eat or what to try! It’s also pretty cool to have such affordable food right in the heart of the strip too.

Visit The Neon Museum

For something a little different, venture out of the main strip and explore The Neon Museum in downtown Vegas. The tour takes about an hour to walk around (it’s guided) and it’s so fun to see all the old neon signs that once stood pride of place in the city. I’m going to do a full review of the tour sometime soon – so stay tuned for more photos and information! In short though, we loved it and it was such a fun way to spend the afternoon. Especially nice because we got to venture out of the normal Vegas tourist areas!

top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

 Experience some fine dining

On our most recent trip to Vegas we were lucky enough to visit the restaurant Alize, found at the top of Palms Hotels and Casino. The view from up there is pretty incredible (you can see right along the strip) and it’s very romantic, if that’s the vibe you’re after. We had the tasting menu which worked out to be about 10 course each and let me tell you, it was epic. The courses are all small portions (so no need to worry about unbuckling your trousers at the table…) and all beautifully presented. I tried caviar for the first time too, and (unexpectedly) loved it.

top things to do in las vegas for couples

top things to do in las vegas for couples

Watch a Cirque du Soliel Show 

My Favourite show is ‘O’ – there is honestly nothing like it anywhere in the world. I’ve seen most of the shows on the strip (including La Reve at the Wynn) and ‘O’ is THE BEST (you can book cheap tickets here). Honestly, if you’re considering a show is Las Vegas, ‘O’ is the most romantic. It is magical, beautiful and just mind-bendingly impossible. It has you laughing, on the edge of your seat, gasping – it’s just incredible. Have I raved about enough? Hopefully. Every time we’re in the city with friends we take them to this show and every time they come out after with their jaws on the floor. If you’re going to see a show in Las Vegas – make this it.

Hit up a buffet

YOU CAN’T VISIT VEGAS AND NOT VISIT A BUFFET. SO FIND ONE AND GO.

I’ve reviewed The Wynn buffet and The Aria Hotel buffet. Both were awesome!

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top things to do in las vegas for couples

Hire a private pool cabana for the day 

You can visit any hotel and use their pool facilities, as long as you pay the resort fee. A great idea (for something a little more special) is to hire a private cabana for the day. At The Aria Hotel (pictured below) that’ll cost you about $500 depending on the time of year. I love the pool area at The Aria and it’s one of the best in Las Vegas – as the hotel is modern and relatively new, they’ve really built the pool area to feel like a retreat. Another I’d recommend is The Venetian.

In Las Vegas, where you’ll find beyond plenty of things to do in the evening and during the night, sometimes it can be nice just to relax and pamper yourself during the day. Relaxing poolside is the perfect way to do that.

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Get greeted at the airport by a limo

When you arrive in Las Vegas, there is only one way to be greeted – and that’s by a limo. It’s the perfect start to your holiday and it’s the perfect surprise too (if you’re the kind of person who likes to plan romantic gestures). We’ve always booked ours through Presidential Limousines  and it’s always great, they even keep track of the flight numbers incase you’ve been delayed or held up. Your limo driver will be waiting for you at baggage claim to help carry the bags out, and then once you get into the car there is a bottle of champagne (maybe beer too!) waiting for you.

Can you think of any better welcome after a long haul flight? 😉 

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Gamble! 

You’re in Vegas, so why not do a bit of gambling? My boyfriend and I took to making it a bit of a competition, to see who could come out on top after a night on the roulette table. He won the first night, I won the second night. Maybe we’ll do the tiebreaker next time we visit…

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Do a Grand Canyon day trip 

It’s a long day as tours usually leave vegas around 7am, and return about 8pm – but it’s so worth it (especially if you’ve never been before). As a couple, it’s a fab thing to do as you can spend the day soaking in the amazing views together. I recommend this tour company – so if you’re going to Las Vegas as a couple – these are the people you’ll want to book with (click here).


top things to do in las vegas for couples

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And lastly… Upgrade your room! 

You’re there as a couple – so chances are you’ll be spending some time in the bedroom. In Vegas you can upgrade your room when you check in for like half the price you’d usually pay. So don’t forget to ask about whether or not they have upgrades available! In 2013 we upgraded our standard room in the Venetian to a huge suite, with a dining room, office, spa bathroom, massive bedroom and living area… and we only paid an extra $25 a night for it.

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Visit the Mob Museum

A museum trip might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of things to do in Las Vegas for couples – but actually the Mob Museum is a lot of fun and great for anyone remotely interested in the gangsters / mob era of the city. It’s a fascinating museum and it’s a good break away from the strip for a few hours too. I would recommend booking in advance, and you can book tickets here.

Do a hot air balloon ride

If you’re really trying to ‘wow’ your other half and you plan on surprising them with some special… this could be the perfect thing to do in Las Vegas for you both. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be amazing and in awe during a hot air balloon ride, and doing a sunrise flight over las vegas is next-level cool. This is the ultimate bucket-list item for anyone – and such a gorgeous activity for a couple visiting Las Vegas. Perfect for a proposal too – if you were planning on popping the question! Here’s a great tour company offering sunrise hot air balloon rides in Las Vegas.

If you’re booking your trip soon, I’d recommend the following websites for great deals on tours and activities: GetYourGuide.com

For more suggestions and advice about visiting Las Vegas – check out my other blog posts below – they’ll probably be really helpful! Have fun!

Every reason I absolutely adore Las Vegas

The best way to explore The Grand Canyon when staying in Las Vegas

Review and photos: 1923 Bourbon and Burlesque Bar in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Aria Hotel, Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Foundation Room Bar in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Wynn Buffet in Las Vegas

Review and photos: The Aria Buffet in Las Vegas

 

Behind bars: My review of Alcatraz Prison Tours

On our recent trip to San Francisco I knew one of the thing we absolutely had to do – was visit Alcatraz.

The first bit of advice I’m going to give you (and it’ll save you time, money and tears) is this: YOU HAVE TO BOOK WELL IN ADVANCE. 

You can’t just ‘turn up’ for Alcatraz. If you want to ensure you get to go, and you want to pay ‘normal’ prices (and not extortionate third-party, last-minute prices) you need to visit the official website, and try and book tickets at least a month ahead of time. Don’t forget to do this, because if you do you’ll just be disappointed. 

But anyway – now onto the good stuff!

The first views you’ll get during your Alcatraz experience are actually from the ferry as you leave mainland San Francisco. Get a good spot stood at the sides of the boat (ignore everyone who sits down… they don’t know what they’re doing). You’ll get some incredible shots of the city, as well as the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge too.

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In these first few shots, you can see me listening to the Park Ranger and familiarising myself with the Alcatraz Prison tour map. There is also the famous Alcatraz sign – definitely a worthy photo-stop.

The first thing you do when you get off the boat (after you take a selfie at the sign!) is listen to a park ranger give a little presentation and intro speech. It’s worth sticking around for this, it only takes 15 minutes.

It’s also worth watching the starter movie (housed in the gift shop halfway up the hill to the prison). Videos aren’t usually my thing, but it was only about 10 minutes long, and it was actually good to get a bit of context about the island before heading out and exploring it.

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One of the things the Park Ranger told us about the sign you can see in the image above (apparently it’s pretty special) was that it holds all the layers to Alcatraz’s history. Not only does it show proof of the army base, and prison days (which is what you’re probably most familiar with) – but it also has graffiti left by the Indian protestors in the 1970s, along with the National Park signage – which is the status the island holds today. So that’s pretty cool – and something you wouldn’t know if you’d have run off without listening to him.

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After about a 10 minute walk up the hill to the big prison building (it’s not too steep… so don’t worry) you enter the prison through an unassuming side door. The first room you get to see is actually the rooms where new arriving prisoners would’ve also walked through. You walk along the medical centre, and alongside the showers where prisoners would been hosed down.

Once you’ve been through this area, you get given your audio tour headphones and you’re free to follow it round when you’re ready. It’s kind of exciting to be honest – I’d never done an audio tour before (especially not in a prison) so I couldn’t wait to get going.

Tip: If you’re with someone, make sure you both press play at the same time. otherwise you’ll be walking away from each other throughout the tour! 

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This photo (below) might seem a bit random, but I took it because of how incredibly thick the glass was. It was about 5 inches thick….

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The tour leads you around various parts of the prison, and you listen to both stories from the prisoners and stories from the guards as you go. They’re real people telling real stories – and it makes for an amazing tour – unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You almost find yourself lost in the prison, like you’ve been transported back there.

It’s really important to remember when you’re in the prison, that nothing has been changed. It’s exactly how it was – right down to the scape routes and holes in the walls!

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My favourite part of the tour was seeing the outdoor recreation yard. That was so bizarre.

There I was stood in this yard, on the same ground where some of the most dangerous criminals to have ever lived once stood. There I was looking at the same view they did. Hearing the same sounds they had. It was a bit overwhelming to be honest, and a strange thing to get your head around. Pad captured the photos below when I wasn’t aware – and you can see the thoughtfulness in my face. I was absolutely lost in thoughts.

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You know what though… the view from that yard was incredible. Maybe one of the best views we saw the entire time we were in San Francisco. It must have been torture to be locked away and have to stare out at such a beautiful city. The phrase ‘so close yet so far’ never rung truer…

Tip: The island is really windy (much more than on the mainland) so make sure you take a jacket or cardigan – and don’t wear a dress that will easily blow up. We got lucky because it was an exceptionally hot day so we didn’t feel the cold too bad, but my dress did blow up! 

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Your next stop on the tour is the high security bit of the prison, or ‘solitary’ as they called it.

The tour invites you to step inside the cells (which was awesome and frightening all at once) and listen to the kinds of sounds the prisoners would’ve heard. At one point you listen to a prisoner’s own account of solitary, and how he used to cope with the darkness. It’s incredible to be stood where he stood, whilst he tells you about his own experience. Part of his account was that he’d start at the tiny bit of light was ages, and then suddenly close his eyes. With his eyes closed he’d let the little bit of light remaining turn into shapes, and a TV – and then he’d watch this fake TV in his minds eye.

He describes the experience as ‘tripping’ and as I tried to do what he explained, I couldn’t have agreed more.

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The solitary cells were darker than dark. It must’ve been a scary place.

DSC00308-001Once you’ve seen the worst of the prison, you then get lead over to what might have been described as ‘the best’. The tour leads you into the staff quarters, and into the generals office. The staff of the island actually lived on the island too – including their  families and children. They show you photos of the children who lived on the island, with narrative from the children (who are now adults) describing how much they loved family life on Alcatraz.

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Of course these families didn’t live in the prison – they lived in specially built houses which formed a small neighbourhood on another side of the island. I found this incredible to comprehend.

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The last stop, is the kitchen and dining room – which is where the tour finishes. Once you’ve had your fill staring through the white metal bars and taking it all in, you can begin the beautiful walk down to the harbour again.

Tip: The boats back to San Francisco leave at set times, so it’s worth snapping a photo of your phone before you head up to the prison of the schedule. That way you can make sure you get down to the harbour in time for a boat. We arrived just as one was leaving, which was a bit annoying – so learn from my mistake!

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Have you been to Alcatraz? Got any tips or advice? Please share them in the comments below!

REVIEW: THE BUFFET AT THE WYNN HOTEL, LAS VEGAS

A few days ago I reviewed the food buffet at The Aria, so today I’m writing up our experience at The Wynn Hotel buffet! I can’t actually decide which I enjoyed more – they both have their plus points and minus points.

One area The Wynn does have up on Aria, is the dining experience. The dining room at the Wynn is beautiful, it feels like a big conservatory with lots of natural light flooding in through the glass ceiling. It reminds me a bit of the castle in Beauty and The Beast – you know at the end when the castle turns all cheerful again? LIke that.

If that reference went over your head, then Google it. It’s so pretty!

The food at The Wynn is lovely too, with the same kind of choices as the Aria, so lots of oriental food, sushi, roasted meats and of course… lots of dessert.

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Mini waffles were so cute. You could have them with the fried chicken, or with syrup and ice-cream. Winning both ways if you ask me.

Wynn food buffet review

The pasta bar (below) was a real treat, with lots of choices. I think there were 4 options, but only 3 are shown in this photo. Of the 4, I tried the Mac and Cheese… yum!

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Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

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Wynn food buffet review

As you can see, there are loads of meat options. Pork Belly, Chicken, Chicken Wings, Beef, Bacon, Sausages, etc. Then there are dips and sauces and pickles for you to choose from (below) to go with it. Oh, and they had pickled and roasted peppers and chiles! Amazing.

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Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

As you can see below, the buffet never feels crowded. You don’t need to queue for the food or wait around. I think I waited around for service only once at the Wynn, and that was when I was waiting for meat to be carved. It’s not like those buffets in over-crowded hotels where you’re pushing through the crowds for the best stuff. DSC00776

Wynn food buffet review

Now onto the desserts (which deserve a special mention…!)

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

My personal favourite, the marshmallow squares! I had to pick the hundreds and thousands off though (I hate those things)!

Wynn food buffet review

Wynn food buffet review

You can see the prices below:

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I only have two bits of negative feedback for the Wynn buffet.

First of all, I didn’t think there were enough ice-cream choices. At the Aria you had a choice of about 12 flavours, but at The Wynn you only got to choose from about 5/6.

My other bit of feedback is the queuing time – which was pretty bad. We queued for about 45 minutes during lunch time (we arrived at 12pm) – and I imagine it would be even longer for the dinner sitting. The queue got longer as we waited too – so it’s not like we’d arrived at a bad time. I think the people behind us might’ve ended up waiting an hour or longer.

There is the choice to upgrade to ‘alcohol included’ and skip the queue – but this costs an addition $16 – which is quite a lot if you weren’t even planning on drinking too much in the first place. I only bring this whole queuing time up because at The Aria we didn’t queue at all, either time we went there.

Have you been to a Vegas buffet? How did it compare to The Wynn

The best places to view the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

As someone who is positively obsessed with photography – when we decided to visit San Francisco, one of the thing I was most excited for was getting some great shots of The Golden Gate Bridge.

But, as someone who is neither a local to San Fran, or a Lonely Planet geek, I had absolutely no idea where I was going to get the best view of Golden Gate Bridge.

So after my own trip to the city and tracking down some incredible views, I decided to make a list! I’m guessing that if I spent hour googling the best spots to take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, that there are other people out there doing it too – so here are all the places I found that offered up amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I made the little map below to help explain it a bit more. Each number on the map corresponds to a place in the list below. Hope this helps!

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1) Battery Spencer 

If you don’t mind the wind, and the hike, Battery Spencer offers some of the most incredible up-close views you could ask for. You’re basically eye-level with the bridge and it’s right there in front of you with no obstructions, and there’s an awesome viewing platform with lots of space (no need to elbow in for the best view). It’s a great place to watch the sunset too – as you’ll get the sun setting over the ocean right next to the bridge.

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2) Fort Point

Fort Point was really popular with bikers when we were up there, and it’s a little bit of a walk up, but not a difficult one. Our friends Matt and Nic pushed a pram up and didn’t struggle – so it’s no big deal.

Once you’ve walked up and taken your first bunch of photos, you can then follow a path down and round to Chrissy Fields, which offers a few more picture perfect opportunities along the way. I recommend this view for those people who want to do a bit of walking – but don’t fancy arriving at the top sweaty and out of breath! The view of Golden Gate Bridge from this spot is beautiful… of course!

view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

A bridge selfie… where I managed to cut out the bridge. Oops!

3) Marshall Beach

Now, we didn’t actually go to Marshall Beach as we didn’t have time – but it’s one of the reasons I’d give myself to visit San Francisco again. I wish we’d had the chance to visit and enjoy the view of Golden Gate Bridge from this spot! It offers something a bit different to the other views, as it’s from the other side of the bay.

Here’s a gorgeous photo I found from blogger Gaizattheworld who did have time to visit the beach and take some incredible photos!

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4) Take a boat tour around the bay

On our second night in the city we took a boat tour around the bay (we booked the Red and White Fleet Cruise through Attraction Tickets Direct). The boat tour lasted a few hours (there was food too!) and left from Fisherman’s Wharf – which is quite a touristy area and pretty easy to get to. Because you’re moving around on the boat tour, you get loads of shots of the bridge from a millions different angles, so it’s perfect for people who want to get a massive variety of photos.

Our cruise was the sunset cruise too – so the colours were just perfection. It was one of our highlights of the whole trip, incredibly romantic and just beautiful. Even Pad got his phone out and took some photos – and when that happens I know the view must be amazing.

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view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

 Just remember to take a coat or a jacket – because holy crap did it get cold once the sun went down!

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5) Chrissy Fields

You could do Chrissy Fields and Fort Point in a couple of hours – so it’s a nice idea to do both of these spots together. If you walk down from Fort point, you’ll end up in Chrissy Fields, so it makes for a nice route to take. That’s what we did anyway 🙂

Chrissy Fields is a beach and public park (don’t worry – you don’t need to pay!) that stretches along the bit of coastline after the bridge, and before you get to the city. It’s beautiful, and there are some lovely lifeboat houses to see, and even a little cafe you can stop at and grab lunch or a drink.

The views might not be as epic as some of the other higher-up vistas, but they’re equally as beautiful. At Chrissy Fields you’ll get photos of the bridge in the context of people and life. Whether it being a couple of dogs playing on the beach, or a few wind-surfers catching waves.

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view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

view of golden gate bridge

6) Alcatraz Island

The one thing I could believe when we visited Alcatraz was how AMAZING the views were across the city and over to the bridge. It was one of the most stunning views of the bridge we found, and it must’ve been torture for the prisoners, to live captive in the prison, having incredible outlooks like that. The phrase ‘so close yet so far’ never rang more true.

When you do the prison tour you get taken out into the outdoor recreational area that the prisoners used. From this area you literally have the most stunning view of the bridge imaginable. Funny how the lowest society in San Francisco once had the best view – money couldn’t even buy.

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7) Book a city centre hotel with a view

There are loads of hotels in the city which offers incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d recommend looking at expedia.co.uk and filtering by city views. Always make sure you look at the different room types available too – if a hotel has a ‘bridge view’ room it’ll usually cost more – so be ready for that.

Check out these other blog posts from San Francisco, which might be useful!

Photos of Beautiful San Francisco Streets

Behind bars: My trip to Alcatraz Prison

If you’re booking your trip soon, I’d recommend the following websites for great deals and prices:

tripadvisor.com (hotels and reviews)

expedia.co.uk (hotels)

agoda.com (hotels and tours)

skyscanner.net (flights)

Remote Working Travel Tip: If like me you’re a remote worker – San Fran is one of the hottest cities for remote working! While enjoying the Golden gate bridge in San francisco, there are times when you simply have to work, the city has tons of coffee shops with WiFi – which is great news. Having a hosted Citrix XenDesktop can make your travel more productive too. For other hosted software products visit, Apps4Rent . Take a risk free trial today !

Review: The Food Buffet at The Aria Hotel, Las Vegas

I thought I’d blog about something a bit different today, mainly because I wanted to re-look at all the gorgeous food from Las Vegas… That’s an OK excuse to blog right?

When we were in Vegas this time round we definitely made the most of the world famous buffets. Last we visited I was so jet-lagged I could barely eat – so going to a buffet seemed a bit stupid on most days. We did squeeze in the Bellagio buffet though – which didn’t meet my expectation (if I’m being honest!).

This time round we went to the Aria buffet and the Wynn buffet. BOTH WERE AMAZING.

These photos are from the Aria buffet (which we did twice in 5 days…)

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

I’ve started with photos of the desserts (because that’s the bit you care about most right?) and because the desserts at Aria were epic. I won’t go through and list everything they had (only my favourite bits) – but just browse through the photos and you realise how much variety there is.

The kind of variety that literally means you can’t try it all in one sitting. No chance.

Also bear in mind that I’ve only photographed about 60% of what was on offer. There was way more than what you see here.

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

I forgot to photograph them, but they also RICE KRISPIE SQUARES.

This was the highlight of my life. I snuck like 10 pieces back to our hotel room and had them for snacking the rest of the time we were there.

When you’re done ogling over the desserts, you have about a million choices for savoury food. Here are a few of my favourite food stations:

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

I’m not a shellfish eater (allergic!) but even I could appreciate the amazingness of all the shellfish and seafood they had on offer. These basins that they kept the prawns, crabs, etc in were huge and were literally overflowing with food.

You know those lame hotel buffets you’re used to, where things run out hafway through and never get refilled? This is never a problem in Vegas. They are all over it.

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

BREAD GLORIOUS BREAD.

Now here’s a piece of advice: Don’t fill up on bread, as tempting as it might be! I love bread – but at a Vegas buffet, you avoid it. The more bread you eat, the less room you have for all the good stuff; like steak, pork belly, chicken, sushi, fish. So save the bread for last! If you still have room for it after you’ve tried everything else… then go for it.

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

I say all this, but the bread if still my favourite part. I freaking love bread. 

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

And one last photo of the actual dining hall…

Aria Las Vegas food buffet

The tables are pretty spacious, and not crammed in. It’s actually a lovely room to eat in – as it looks out at the pool area and has loads of lovely big windows. The service staff are good and pretty quick.

There are two options price-wise, so you can either get unlimited alcohol included (for an extra $12 I think it was), or just stick with the unlimited soft-drinks. Soft drinks includes all fizzy drinks like Coke, and fruit juices and hot drinks – so it’s not like you’re short of options if you don’t opt for the alcohol choice.

Also – on a week day the buffet is cheaper by about $10 – and the price goes up on the weekend. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to save pennies!

Monday – Friday
11:00 AM – 3:30 PM
$23.99*

Saturday and Sunday Brunch: $29.99

Dinner:
Monday – Thursday
3:30 PM – 10:00 PM
$34.99* ($39.99 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday)

All day, add $12.99 for unlimited Mimosas, Bellinis, Bloody Marys, Sangria, Champagne, Premium Beer and Wine on TAP.

Also, lastly, I figured I’d copy and pasta in all the ‘food stations’ they mention on the website. Just so you can see the variety! More info here on their website

Fish Market – Fresh Seafood, unlimited Crab Legs, Fish & Chips, Paella and more

Asian – Dim Sum, authentic dishes from Thailand, China and Japan

Italian – Made-to-Order Pasta, Cured Meats & Cheeses featuring a Mozzarella Bar and Gluten-Free Pasta

Pizza – Authentic pizzeria style pies in New York Style, Gluten Free & Stromboli

Mediterranean – Dishes and Salads from countries including North Africa and the Middle East, a great Healthy Choice

Tandoori – Live Tandoor Oven cooking including Naan, Tandoori Chicken, Lamb, Vegetables & a wide range of authentic Indian cuisine

Latin – Not just Mexican, this section contain dishes from across South America & Spain along with an authentic Taco Bar

Carvery – Enjoy a bounty of Grilled, Smoked & Slow Roasted meats featuring our 75 lbs. Beef Steamship, Tri-Trip & Free Range, Turkey Breast carved to order

Diner – All-American comfort food taken to an extraordinary level. Enjoy Spiced Meatloaf, Chicken Fried Steak, Grilled Corn on the Cobb and our signature Red Velvet Stuffed pancake

Salad – Create your own salad and chose from our large array of toppings and indulge in our new Baked Potato Bar

Sweets – The ultimate in indulgence. Sample delicious Pastry Creations made fresh daily along with our unforgettable Gelato, Cookies, Candies, Cakes & much, much more

Photo post: Beautiful Santa Monica Pier

During my time in Los Angeles I ventured down to Santa Monica for the day and spent a couple of hours walking around the pier and sitting on the beautiful beach.

And holy crap is it a beautiful beach! It goes on for miles and miles and is full of tourist, families and locals just enjoying the beach and the sunshine. If you’re in the area, this is a beach you don’t want to miss out on.

But anyway – this post is about the pier. It’s kind of like the typical touristy pier (a bit like the UK’s own Brighton Pier, but with way more sunshine, and way less fish and chips haha).

Yes, it’s busy and packed – but it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. Grab yourself a portion of chips, go on a fairground ride, and play in the arcades.

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The pier has the best views of the beach, so make sure you have your camera ready 🙂 it’s pretty special.

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Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

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Oh and one last thing – make sure you wear suncream! I got SO burnt this day – I had the most awkward tan lines for the entire rest of the holiday. It might feel breezy being by the sea – but trust me – the sun will get you!

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!

 

First impressions of Los Angeles from a California newbie.

Growing up I always imagined that Los Angeles was where I belonged. Like my long lost home. The beaches, the walk of fame, the sunshine, the shopping – all of it seemed like this perfect place I was destined to end up. And I’ve been toying with the idea ever since it was first conceived.

Maybe it was all those teen TV shows growing up that kept the idea alive, like if I moved there I too could be BFF’s with Mary Kate and Ashley.

This summer, Pad and I booked a our big annual holiday in the States, with 5 days in San Francisco and 5 in Las Vegas (we just got home yesterday and I am writing this in my hazy jetlagged state of tiredness). But I wanted a little extra, so decided to do 3 days in Los Angeles before meeting him in San Francisco. Pad had been before a couple of times, and was pretty honest about the fact that it just wasn’t his cup of tea.

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I’d never been to Los Angeles before though and I was so excited to finally see the city, and even more so to see it on my own, and explore somewhere by myself. As someone who has done most of her travelling with someone else in tow (boyfriend, friends, family) the prospect of seeing somewhere all by myself was kind of exciting.

I was staying at The Redbury Hotel, Hollywood (read my review here) – so I was literally going to be right in the middle of everything.

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So what did I make of Los Angeles?

Well first of all, it’s really massive. There is downtown LA, Hollywood, Beverley Hills, Santa Monica and it goes on and on. So just because you don’t like one bit of LA doesn’t mean you won’t love another part of the city.

For me, the downtown area and the Hollywood area felt a bit faded.

Los Angeles city centre

Like a place that was once something really special – somewhere really important, but it had all faded with age. I heard all the stories of magnificence, glamour and excitement on the various tours I did whilst there, and the various books I had read: from the beginning of the movie industry to the bustling 50s, 60s and 70s where the city was the pinnacle of parties, celebrity and everything in the industry revolved around the centre of the city.

You can still see shadows of what the city once was – whether it be an old vintage advertisement painted on a random wall, or a beautiful art-deco cinema that was once used to premiere classic Hollywood movies. The evidence is all there that this place was once magical. It just didn’t feel that way anymore.

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Other observations about downtown and Hollywood…

The city is a bit scruffy. I guess that comes with being so huge and spacious – but there were many areas that simply weren’t cared for, weren’t looked after and seemed a bit forgotten about.

Another thing I noticed about the city, which made feel a bit uneasy as a solo female traveller – was the sheer amount of homeless people. One day I planned to go to the local park (the weather was gorgeous) and on sunny days in London the park is usually filled with locals and families looking for some fun in the sun. So I figured it’d be the same here.

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I thought a few hours with my kindle and a coffee would be perfect. When I arrived the park was already filled to the brim. Not with families, locals or even tourists and holiday makers though. With homeless people.

Now I know that just because someone is homeless, it doesn’t mean that they’re dangerous. I’m not that stupid. But what I do know, is that as a female, travelling solo, I need to make sure I’m putting myself in safe situations. And this one wasn’t as safe as it could’ve been. It also made me kind of sad too to see all these people in a situation like that, with their entire life possessions in a shopping trolley, or a rucksack or a shopping basket. I found myself asking how the city had let it come to this, and why there wasn’t more options for these people on the streets.

I’ve never before been to a city with so many homeless people.

The areas I did like in the city…

Beverley Hills was beautiful. But that was hardly surprising! After all, it’s where the elite live, and it’s groomed and looked after because of that. If people have the money – somewhere will always look polished and perfect.

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The residential streets I explored were ‘storybook’ prefect. Exactly what you’d expect from LA I guess. Apparently Beverley Hills residential streets paint their fire hydrants silver because the normal colours don’t look nice enough for the houses and don’t match the ‘decor’. That made me laugh. But in a funny way, it kind of summed up the area.

I explored the shopping area too, the famous Rodeo Drive and surrounding streets – and as you’d expect – it was all gorgeous. Lots of beautiful people buying beautiful things. Don’t expect to be able to afford anything unless you make a habit of shopping in Gucci and friends normally!

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I also spent a day in Santa Monica (I’ll blog on more about that in time) which I enjoyed. The pier (although jam packed with tourists) is super fun and makes a lovely day away from the bustling city streets. The beach is HUGE and is truly beautiful. I found myself wasting away a few hours sat on the sand just people watching, and it was perfect.

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So overall? 

I don’t know. I’m still a bit confused about what I thought. 

I loved some parts of the city, Santa Monica sticking out the most as my most enjoyable day. Would I go back to LA? Probably not in a hurry. Maybe in 10 years or something, or perhaps if I’m after a big theme-park fix – then yes. It’s not a bad city – I just found it very difficult to love it. It’s big – so hard to get around, the public transport leaves a lot to be desired, the city is very scruffy in parts and there were times when I felt very unsafe. But at the same time, I did enjoy learning about the history and seeing the stories behind the buildings and street and neighbourhoods.

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I have a feeling, that to love LA, you have to venture further out to the suburbs and explore the beautiful coastline and beach towns. Which is something I definitely plan on doing.

What do you think of LA?

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Review: The Redbury Hotel Hollywood – Los Angleles

My first stop on the West Coast during my recent USA roadtrip was the beautiful Redbury Hotel Hollywood in Los Angeles. I’d actually flown into Las Vegas (as the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy was too good to pass up) so once I’d landed from that 10 hour flight, I then had to endure another 7 hours drive to Los Angeles.

I know I could’ve flown and got a connecting flight, but flying solo unsettles me and one ten hour flight was enough for one day!

After a solid 28 hours of no sleep, I arrived (like the stereotypical weary traveller) at the hotel reception desk. I was greeted by a lovely guy, dressed head to toe in the most trendy hipster tweed outfit that has ever existed and actually MATCHED the hotel (I would later learn that all the reception staff wear this style, and it’s awesome).

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The Redbury Hotel Hollywood is all about style and those little details, and totally plays up on the old hollywood vibe. It feels like you’re stepping into a film set as soon as you enter the building.  In fact – I even managed to do my first bit of sightseeing before I’d even checked in, as the walk of fame runs right past the front door.

James Dean’s star was a few feet from the entrance – which was a nice surprise!

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So, it’s 1am and after 10 hours on a plane and 6 on a mini-bus I’m making the final stretch to the hotel room. I was hoping for something good. Or at least a comfy bed.

What I got was both of those things, and then some.

It was epic.

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Oh hello 4-poster bed. You will conquer my jetlag.

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Everything in the hotel room was all about ease and comfort. The bed was so wide I could lay across it, stretch out my arms, and still not be touching either end. The bathroom had a feel of a walk-in closet, with a HUGE (probably the biggest I’ve ever seen) walk-in shower. It was so big you could hang your clothes at the other end of the shower (good for getting creases out Pad tells me) and the clothes wouldn’t even get splashed.

The room was all open plan, with a big living area (TV, record player, you name it….) and a dining table at one end. The decor is like walking into a ‘Good Homes’ Magazine shoot.

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I kind of fell in love with the dimply wine glasses above. I was all the inner strength I had not to pinch them when I left.

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In between the bedroom area and the living room is the open plan kitchen and breakfast bar. The breakfast bar is so big it could happily seat 4 people – so the room would be perfect for groups of friends looking for a place to entertain before heading out to enjoy LA nightlife. The room even had a spacious balcony to relax on too.

Good for long term guests too – as there was an oven, hob, fridge, kettle, etc – so if you were there for a week or longer and didn’t fancy eating out every night you’d easily be able to cook up something delicious in the kitchen.

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The hotel felt lovely and lively in the evening, and the hotel has a really popular bar and bustling restaurant on the ground floor. You’d have thought this would be bothersome and loud – but not at all. The noises from these area didn’t pass into the hotel at all – certainly not the part of the hotel I was in, anyhow.

How did The Redbury Hotel Hollywood rate for location? 

It’s right in the heart of Hollywood, Los Angeles and the walk of fame goes right past the front door, so you couldn’t ask for a better location. Located on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, it’s about a 15/20 minute walk to the Chinese theatre (depending on how quick you like to go!), and a 20 minute down to Paramount Studios. Remember – Los Angeles IS MASSIVE and even if somewhere looks like a 5 minute walk on the map, it’s probably 15 minutes in reality.

One big plus point was that there was one of the hop-on hop-off bus stops 2 minutes from the door. This made a big difference for me, as it was my main way of getting around during my time there. So made everything super convenient.

In terms of shops and stuff for food, there was a Starbucks across the road along with a few other coffee shops and newsagents. No big supermarket within walking distance – but if you had a car that wouldn’t be an issue.

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So would I recommend The Redbury Hotel Hollywood?

YES.

It’s glamorous, gorgeous and feels like everything you’d expect from a luxury hotel in LA. If I’m ever back in the city, it’s where I would stay, no questions asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

best thrift shops in NYC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Photo For Everywhere I Went in 2013.

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

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

paris slow motion night time

Paris

Queenstown view gondola blue

Queenstown, NZ

London shard sunshine clouds

London, UK

NYC blue building greenwich

New York City, USA

Girl in grand canyon sunshine

The Grand Canyon, USA

Bellagio fountains las vegas blogger

Las Vegas, USA

Hong Kong slow shutter speed skyline

Hong Kong

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Phuket, Thailand

grand palace bangkok summer sunshine

Bangkok, Thailand

wild elephant koh samui thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand

marina bay sands sparkle singapore

Singapore

thailand beach sunshine aqua longboat

Angthong National Park, Thailand

kuala lumpur traders hotel view sunset

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

byron bay beach sunset surfers australia

Byron Bay, Oz

gold coast surfers paradise ocean beach

Surfers Paradise, Oz

brisbane evening night time reflection

Brisbane, Oz

noosa australia beach wave surfing

Noosa, Oz

fraser island australia sunset beach

Fraser Island, Oz

hamilton island parrots birds view reef hotel

Hamilton Island, Oz

great ocean road view mist storm

The Great Ocean Road, Oz

woman wetsuit great barrier reef ocean

The Great Barrier Reef, Oz

view from plane cairns clouds

Cairns, Oz

melbourne in the evening with slow shutter speed

Melbourne, Oz

surfers on the beach in New Zealand

Christchurch, NZ

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The Blue Mountains, Oz

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Bondi, Oz
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Sydney, Oz

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

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What has your 2013 highlight been?

An email I sent to a friend about NYC.

A lovely friend of mine Harriet is heading to NYC this week, and she dropped me an email asking me what I recommended doing and seeing in the city. I love being asked for recommendations so I put together a way-too-lengthy reply and emailed her back.

I figured I’d copy and paste the email into a blog post so that all that wonderful New York info can be shared with a few other people too! Enjoy 🙂

(Excuse the lack of punctuation and awful mis-structured sentences… I have literally just copied and pasted it in from my inbox and added some of my photos to make it look pretty). 

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There is a pretty AMAZING restaurant in Williamsburg, literally Pad and I would go back to NYC just to eat there again! You’ll have to queue up (it’s like a random street restaurant and you just grab loads of meat and sit on shared tables) but holy crap – it’s delicious!
Other things I would do:
– Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (the views are amazing!)
– Make a whole day for central park (it’s so huge, you might even want to walk around it twice? Start at the corner of 5th and enter there, that’s also where all the horse and carriages are too)
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– Watch a broadway show (doesn’t matter which one, but you can’t really go to NYC and not) Wicked is incredible, as is Lion King and Chicago.
– Sit on the red steps in Times Sq, just to people watch really. It’s very busy, but it’s kind of fun to watch all the weirdo tourists taking photos and selfies.
– I would go up the to the top of the rock, rather than the empire state – you get a much nicer view and the queuing system is much better (if you book online in advance, you just turn up at your time and go straight up). I would go just before sunset – and then stay up there until the sun has gone down. Then you get your money’s worth.
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– Staten Island Ferry across to Staten Island is pretty cool (and free) it leaves from the very bottom of Manhattan island, takes about 25 mins, then brings you back again. You get pretty close to the statue of liberty (and you get really good photos!) and it doesn’t cost money like the tours do.
– If you get a chance, go to Greenwich Village, it’s super beautiful there and all the buildings are like picture perfect NYC-buildings. Take a map though, because it’s the only part of Manhattan that doesn’t use the grid system – so it’s really easy to get lost.
– The bus tours are actually really good and worth the money – we did one the 3rd time we went and I wished we’d done it earlier, because it’s a really easy way of seeing the city and spotting things you might want to go back and explore another day. They usually do an uptown and downtown route, which is included with the ticket price. We did both routes in one day and it was really good, nice to do sightseeing without having to walk everywhere too…. because by the 4th day our feet were a aching! If you take a bus tour up into Harlem, etc it’s kind of cool to see all of NYC that the tourists don’t tend to linger in.
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– KATZ DELI is the best deli (and oldest deli) in NYC. It’s amazing. Literally, you go in and they have like 400 photos of celebs on the wall who have eaten there, like Frank Sinatra, etc. I would definitely go here for a proper NYC eating experience it’s just immense. I got the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and Pad got the Pastrami sandwich and they were epic. Like ‘can’t-even-fit-my-mouth-around-it’ size. Our friend Mark just got back from NYC, and actually nearly missed his plane because he didn’t want to leave NYC without trying Katz out. That’s how good it is.
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– Prospect park in Brooklyn is really pretty – If you’re going there around Halloween, I’d just walk around the residential streets in Brooklyn too – because they decorate all the houses with pumpkins, etc. We were there just after halloween the second time we went and it was really cute seeing all the pumpkins and bunting in the streets.
– The 9/11 memorial is important to go and see – I got a bit sensitive when I saw people taking touristy photos of it…. It just didn’t seem right to me. I don’t know – I guess that’s a personal thing. It’s definitely worth going just to see the scope of it though, and it’s such an important part of the city and the history.
– Head over to DUMBO in Brooklyn for amazing views of the skyline at night.
– Pier 17 in Manhattan is really fun – lots of shops, a big pirate ship in the water and really awesome views over Brooklyn and over the Brooklyn bridge from the canteen bit on the top floor.
– We went to an amazing restaurant called Quality Meats (near hyde park) which was pretty amazing – so might be a nice idea for a treat one night?
– We also did a helicopter ride (but that’s kind of pricey): http://www.theworldandthensome.com/seeing-nyc-from-the-air-helicopter-style/ but it is beautiful and the views are amazing!
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Also these blog posts might help?
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Seeing NYC from the air: Helicopter-Style.

For my 21st birthday a couple of years ago, my amazing boyfriend (soppy bit over, I promise!) gave me one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had. We woke up on the morning of my birthday, and he whisked me off for a helicopter ride above the city I love. It was pretty incredible – so I wanted to share a few of the photos.

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Pad booked it with Liberty Helicopters who are located in Downtown Manhattan at their own Heliport (6 East River Piers, NY NY 10004) who were just great and really made the whole thing really special. In a city where you end up queuing for big activities and day trips – we were pleasantly surprised by how short the waiting time actually was for our helicopter trip.

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I think you can book different lengths of flights, ranging from about 10 minutes to around 30 (booking is something you do have to do though – I remember the lady behind reception telling a couple behind us that they didn’t take walk-ins). Our flight lasted about 20 minutes, so we were right in the middle of the packages they offer.The prices vary hugely – depending on the length of the flight and whether you chose to go private too. We were in a shared helicopter with two other couples – but to be honest I barely noticed them there. When I think back to it – I just remember it being Pad and I.

The views were stunning – I literally cannot emphasise this enough. If you’re someone who loves New York, and you’re looking for something a bit special to do whilst you visit – then I can’t think of anything more perfect than this.

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On your flight you don’t actually fly over the city, but around it instead. You’ll notice that since 9/11 no helicopters are allowed to fly over the city – unless they’re news reporters or television crews. This doesn’t mean you don’t get the amazing views though – quite the opposite in fact. The views are much more epic when you’re seeing the city above from afar – as you really take much more of it in. Just make sure you’ve got your camera and you bagsy the window seat!

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Would I recommend it? Of course I would. It is a short but sweet kind of treat – but oh my gosh – you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. It’s not just the romance of it all and seeing such an incredible landscape from the sky…. it’s also something pretty special to be in a helicopter (because, let’s face it, that’s not exactly a daily occurrence for most of us)!

What would you recommend for people visiting NYC?

 

I love Las Vegas. There I said it.

I know this is not very ‘traveller-ish’ of me. 

And for most people, Las Vegas is their one and only idea of hell. But I love it. 

I love the sunshine.

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I love how the whole city feels like one giant resort.

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I love the Bellagio fountains.

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I love the fake-sky.

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I love how every hotel is completely different.

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I love the luxurious hotels – that look like the palaces and castles from Disney movies.

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I love that the shops (and everything else) stay open past 3am.

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I love the buffets.

I love being able to visit 3 countries in one day (Venice, Paris or NYC anyone?)

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I love getting free drinks in the casinos.

I love the many, many, many, many shows.

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I love that the Grand Canyon is only a few hours away.

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I love how easy it is to get a cab.

I love the I love the themed shops and shopping malls.

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I love getting food 24 hours a day.

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I love it that a luxurious suite in Vegas is the same price of a hostel in NYC.

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I love the giant gambling machines.

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I love the limos.

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So yeah.

I love it in Vegas.

There I said it.

 

Things you just HAVE to do in NYC (because I said so)

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 22.53.10I’ve found that usually, when I visit somewhere new,  it’s the personal recommendations that always turn out to be the best fun or the most enjoyable. In fact, when we were travelling, some of our friends recommended some truly awesome things – that we otherwise would never have even heard about. So with that, here are my personal recommendations for NYC….

1. Visit Katz Deli (maybe twice?)

Originally made famous by it’s starring role in When Harry Met Sally, this is our new favourite sandwich shop that we discovered on our most recent visit to NYC a couple of months ago. Oh my gosh, if you like sandwiches and you like meat – this place is going to be your idea of heaven. The portions are HUGE and the food is amazing, but honestly it’s worth going here just for the experience. If you really want to throw yourself in the NYC-locals-deep-end, visit at lunch time like we did. You’ll be dining with people who’ve been eating there for years. Love it. Go once for sure. Go twice if you can handle it!

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2. Get completely lost

Some of the best times I’ve had in NYC is when we haven’t been looking for anything. Pad and I love to just walk when we visit new places – and NYC is the perfect place to get lost in. Take a stroll and put away your map for a few hours. You never know what you might find.

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3. Sit on the red steps in Times Square

I know most local New Yorkers would tell you to avoid Times Square, but both Pad and I love it there. I don’t particularly rate walking through it (it’s far too busy), but I love sitting on the famous red steps with a coffee, just people watching. Pad and I would just sit there, making up stories for people walking past. Weird? Probably. Entertaining? Definitely.

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4. Waste away the hours in Central Park

On a summers day there is no where more lovely than central park, I could spent my entire time there if there wasn’t so much more to do. Make sure you allocate at least a day of your trip to central park though – it’s huge and it’s not the kind of place where a ten minute walk will suffice. Take your time, enjoy lunch on the meadows, play frisbee, eat an ice-cream as it melts down your wrist (true story, very sticky) and just enjoy walking around this beautiful part of the city.

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5. Take an open bus tour

So this is totally cliched and such a touristy thing to do – but what’s the harm. We had this incredible bus tour in NYC last time we were there, who was just (probably) the most hilarious person ever. As we drove up next to another open air tour bus, he told us all to look scared and frightened and he would pretend to yell abuse at all of us from the front of the bus. Needless to say we all played along, and it was absolutely hilarious looking at their faces as they pulled up next to us. Who knows what they thought. It’s also a great place to see parts of the city you might not otherwise have seen.

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6. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Stunning views. Iconic landmark. A million photo opportunities. This is one of my favourite things to do in the whole world – not just in NYC.

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7. Dine out at Quality Meats

Quality Meats is a pretty fantastic restaurant just near central park. You’ll need to book in advance because it gets busy – and it’s a bit of a ‘treat’ because it’s not exactly cheap…. but it’s totally worth it. Make sure you get a steak. And enjoy!

8. Watch the sunset from the Rockefeller Centre’s ‘Top of the Rock’

A lot fo people opt for The Empire State when they visit NYC, but personally (and I’ve done both) I’d always choose The Rockefeller Centre instead. You’ll get much nicer views from The Top of the Rock because you get to see the Empire State as part of your view. Go there just before sunset and stay up until the sun goes down – it’s something pretty special to watch and pretty unforgettable.

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9. Take the Staten Island Ferry

Instead of booking a private tour boat around and near The Statue of Liberty, you can get the Staten Island Ferry over to Staten Island for free – and get some pretty fantastic views of it that way instead. It’s a commuting boat so you’ll want to avoid it during the early morning and early evening, but during the day time or evening it’s a great thing to do. AND FREE!!

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10. Explore the local neighbourhoods

Greenwich Village is beautiful in NYC and is beautiful to look around. In fact, there are so many little neighbourhoods like this in NYC so make sure you get out and explore them. Brooklyn is pretty awesome too – so take the subway across and explore some of those gorgeous brownstone neighbourhoods too. In the more residential parts of the city, I could get lost in the elegance of the buildings, and I just love all the unique little features they seem to have.

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11. Eat some NYC pizza

At least once during your time in NYC, make sure you grab a slice from a local NYC pizza place. The pizza place opposite our last apartment made the best pizza ever (I’m a terrible travel blogger, because I’ve forgotten the name of it….!) and for $1 a slice you couldn’t go wrong. The entire pizza were about the size of dustbin lids and only cost us $10. Not once did we finish a whole one. Not once. Awesome for breakfast the next morning though.

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What would you recommend to others in NYC? Leave me some suggestions for my next trip 🙂

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.

 

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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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!