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!