Tag Archives: holiday

Back in the Big Apple and it’s a sight for sore eyes

10172670_10151979965742617_2022132837779848396_nAfter months of waiting and planning for my family trip to New York, we finally touched down at JFK and were launched straight into holiday mode! We flew through security (pardon the pun), although the alarms did start going off as my fingerprints were scanned (eek!) and quickly grabbed our bags, eager to dive into the Big Apple. Jumping into a classic yellow cab, we sped out of the airport and along the highways towards Manhattan, giving us our first taste of the crazy driving that I absolutely love. Definitely something I have brought back with me, I was almost dizzy from trying to predict the driver’s next move as he jumped into any available space and edged his way through the traffic. I have to say I really prefer the way Americans drive – I wouldn’t give up the gear stick for anything – but I like their efficiency. They just focus on getting there as quickly as possible and aren’t frowned upon for using their horns to tell people to move – I hate how British drivers are so afraid of using their horns to tell people when they do something wrong or dangerous – that’s what they are there for! Sorry, I digress…

1017163_10151979965342617_3151856071614876702_nI was sitting in the front seat next to the driver, and yes I tried to get in the wrong side of the car at the airport – whoops! After the long flight, I was glad he wasn’t a chatty driver as I was more than happy just to take in my first glimpses of the big city, especially when we went over the bridge and got our first amazing view of the New York skyline – just perfect despite the mist surrounding it. It always takes my breath away to see that sight again.



I was also enjoying the gorgeous old school soul CD that the driver had popped in, with his dreads and cool manner he sang along as we came over the bridge and through the city to our hotel, the Hotel St James, just off Times Square. As you may have read in a previous post, we were made so welcome by the lovely staff on reception who spotted mum’s birthday badge and instantly went out of their way to upgrade our rooms.


The hotel was lovely, clean and comfortable. It actually looks nothing like the pictures on the website – which don’t do it justice – and is really nice. A perfect base for anyone on holiday and looking to explore the city – you are seconds walk from the centre of Times Square and a five-minute walk from the subway station. You’re also just a short walk from the best shopping in the city, some of the amazing sights and Central Park. One of the best deli’s I have found in the city is right next door – really recommend the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels – and it is surrounded by loads of great restaurants including an amazing grill restaurant opposite! The hotel staff were so kind and loaded us up with maps and information for our trip, after unpacking and having some birthday cake with my sister, we headed out into Times Square to see the bright lights!

10170891_10151979965637617_7722635128611760455_nI always feel so excited when I stand in Times Square – it just epitomises the ‘bright lights bigger city’ with all those flashing signs and adverts everywhere, the random people dressed up as Disney characters or drugs, people trying to sell you tickets everywhere and just the hustle and bustle of it all. There’s so many people in such a small area of New York, you can’t help but feel you are really in the thick of it all and I always have to take a second to breathe it all in. Wow. Yellow taxis racing through the centre of the square, wafts of burger and steak smells coming from the restaurants, huge queues outside Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe, and all different accents around me expressing their excitement.

I’m so pleased that each time I have been to New York with my family (Four times now – I’m so lucky!) we have found deals to stay in the streets close to Times Square – it really is the best part of the city because you are only a few minutes away from some of the most incredible parts. I always love to imagine what it would have been like there 50-100 years ago. I know that not everyone will agree because many others prefer to avoid areas like this – but I think it is hard to avoid tourist traps in New York without missing out on a great deal. I’m really looking forward to sharing everything else that we did during the week we spent there with you, I’ve got lots of photos!

What’s your favourite part of New York? Do you love or hate Times Square?


What happens when your travels don’t go to plan?

rainMuch as we all love to travel and explore the world around us, the odds are that the more we do it, the more likely we are to be exposed to the risk of something not going to plan. How many of us have had some unexpected bad luck while on holiday after planning the trip for months – lost baggage, missed planes or Delhi belly? So unfair isn’t it? After all that time spent searching for the perfect hotel, the best priced flights and planning which sights you want to see. Sadly it happens to us all, and no matter how much planning we do, sometimes it just can’t be prevented!

So what was your worst holiday memory? I know I’ve got a couple of crackers that I still can’t believe happened to me, you have to laugh about them after because some of them are just so ridiculous! Here are my worst holiday experiences:

  1. Waking up in the middle of our first night in Mauritius to find a man had broken in through the bedroom window and was stealing all my valuables while I slept. This one was really horrible and upsetting, it was awful to know he had been walking around me while I was asleep and to think of his grubby mitts on my sunglasses, camera, iPod and the rest. It was even worse because he had left me with just me A-level revision books and exam papers just before my January exams. Forced to revise on the beach, but hey, it got me my results! And we moved the next night so that made things a little better.
  2. On the same holiday, a week later, I woke up and must have been bitten by a weird bug or something but my skin had reacted and my eye had swollen up! It was gross and I could barely open one of my eyes, this was on Christmas Day when we were meeting loads of the family at the beach for a big dinner and as mentioned above, my sunglasses were nicked. Great, cheers Mr Burglar! Luckily I managed to get a replacement pair from a shop and kept my face covered. Thankfully the day got a bit better when I had lobster for Christmas dinner.
  3. When I went to Zakynthos, Greece, with my family, I was just swimming around in the sea when  I put my foot down, on a bloody sea urchin! I can’t even describe the pain to you, or how bloody difficult it was to swim back to shore and hobble up the beach. My mum staggered along trying to carry me but we kept falling over. Luckily, we were staying in apartments attached to a Greek family’s restaurant and one of the family were outside as we arrived back there. We had planned to visit the doctors but sat me down, removed any trace of the urchin and poured a liquid over my foot – I can’t remember what it was but my foot felt instantly less painful and within six hours looked almost normal! My hero.
  4. Morocco was easily the worst place I have ever been on holiday. Now I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and some people really love the country – I too love the idea of the country but the reality is somewhat different for my family, as is repeatedly the case in Muslim countries. I have found that on holidays to both Turkey and Morocco that the men just seem to have no respect for women and that both me, my sister and my mum are constantly the target for seriously unwanted attention as these men leer at us and even follow us down the street. I understand and respect their beliefs, so I was certainly not dressing inappropriately, but it just seems like my mixed race family attracts the wrong kind of attention. That many of these men can’t deal with my white English mother walking down the street with a Mauritian man and two mixed race children. I hope that in the future I can visit the country and see a different side to it, but at the moment it just makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and unwelcome.
  5. Then there was the standard caravan holidays when I was a kid – I’ll always remember when we went away to stay in one and were stuck inside it all weekend listening to the wind and rain banging away on the outside. I could probably cope with this a bit better now, but when you’re just a kid you need to run around and tire yourself out all day. I love reading, but I even got bored of that when I had finished reading all my books halfway through the weekend! Amazingly, since then I have actually camped all over the country and have never had anything but perfect weather!


Why not share your worst holiday memories by leaving me a comment below?

It’s not always about the destination, sometimes it’s more about the journey!

8103847155_1414a0ec7b_oI love to travel. Simple as. I’ve been lucky and my parents also love to travel across the globe which means I’ve been going on incredible holidays since I was just a baby. Despite this, the excitement of actually travelling never seems to go away, I get just as excited about the journey to my destination as I do about arriving and exploring. Clue is in the name, travelling is a big part of the travel experience, whether it is a road trip with your friends, settling in for a seven-hour flight with an in-flight movie, or catching the Eurostar. It’s that part that gives you the opportunity to daydream about the sights you will be seeing, the food you will be eating and the people you will meet over the coming days.

12886309_4f46dd7bb6_oThe journey to your destination is one part that always keeps the magic of travelling alive for me, I love any kind of travel and am usually the driver if my friends and I head to a festival or away for the weekend. I also love train journeys when combined with a good soundtrack, but it is plane journeys that really get me excited. I love airports and the way everything seems to be part of another world, a world where convenience rules and beyond the gate there are people who have arrived from all parts of the globe and about to set out on the next leg of their trip. It is exciting, a good opportunity to stock up on make-up and other treats in duty free, but also for one of my favourite travelling pastimes – people-watching! I find it endlessly fascinating to watch couples, groups and solo travellers going about their business in Departures and it certainly helps to pass the time for me after my dad insists we arrive hours before we are due to fly!

5336454900_d56e3cef08_bI’ve got travel on the brain this week because in just a few short days, I will be boarding a plane to New York with my parents. Our first family holiday in ages, we are heading out on my mum’s 50th birthday to visit my sister, who is already out there studying a semester abroad. This is the fourth time we will have been and I am more excited than ever before because now we have covered all of the usual sights and will have more of an opportunity to explore the smaller areas and make discoveries of incredible things, with the guidance of both our own experiences of previous visits and my sister’s top tips for where to go. I can’t wait to explore and to experience this incredible city once again and will be capturing the whole thing for you to read and check out my pictures when I return. Before I go, we’re having a few days of travel-oriented posts which I hope you will enjoy.

Also, if you have any recommendations for things to see/do/eat on my trip, please do share below!

Girls On Tour Glamping: Pretty wellies, cupcakes and champers

65613_10151373002012617_1224910358_nThe girls and I are busy making plans for one of my friends’ 24th birthday later this month and although this year the plan is to have the celebrations in London, with plenty of pink fizz and dancing, I will always remember the way we spent her birthday last year. My beautiful friend had a bit of  tough year and so reaching 23 and being happy was quite a milestone – we decided to do something special and with a free trip I organised for a feature for work, we headed off for a weekend of glamping!

72187_10151372999922617_1464347419_nWe stayed at Pigeon Wood Hideaway in Sedgeford, which is owned by Wild Luxury, and this really was glamorous camping. Although I love camping, trust me, with my friends, glamping was the only option. Especially when I had a call from the birthday girl as she was packing to ask “do I need to pack my straighteners or are you taking yours?” – No there definitely was no electricity. But we were all really excited to do something different and have a relaxing weekend where we didn’t have to go very far beyond beautiful Norfolk and yet felt completely separate from home.

27152_10151373011172617_206622633_nThe site was amazing, one my car had bumped and groaned through the fields to get there – we had to leave the road and rough it the rest of the way to the camp site. It was quite an adventure! We arrived and started unloading the car of all our treats and birthday goodies. The site was lovely, literally felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, all you could see was endless fields and woods – not a road in sight! It was so peaceful and the sun was shining – perfect! In front of the huge glamping tent there was a metal fire for us to burn logs in, at the end of the field there was a log shed to top it up. There were also some enclosures at the end where rescue chickens, ducks and goats were kept, with opportunities for us to collect fresh eggs and to feed the animals.

422040_10151373018057617_1078796804_nThe goats were so nervous because they had been so maltreated at their previous home, they were very skittish to start with, but soon their curiosity overwhelmed them and I actually managed to stroke one and feed them from my hands! They were so cute and the chickens were so cheeky.11915_10151373014837617_270426597_nWe made sure to stock up on burgers and sausages from the local farm shop so we could have lots of barbecues – I was given the role of head chef and fire attendant which suited me fine! The girls kept me topped up with bubbly and snacks while I was cooking and it certainly made the food taste even more amazing because it was all local, fresh and cooked outside. We also kept ourselves entertained with lots of silly games, endless gossip and lots of laughs. Outside the tent there was a bat & ball set which had us all getting a bit competitive – bloody tiring I tell you! And we also couldn’t resist getting some bubbles from the shop to play with – just like kids.943499_10151373010962617_989183961_n 3559_10151373039982617_2045018005_nWe had such a lovely weekend and the actual tent was amazingly well-equipped – we had our own warm, power shower and loo, a gorgeous stove that kept the inside warm all night long, a fabulous little kitchen that had everything we could have needed and the cosiest, comfiest beds. It actually slept six so we had loads of room to spread out and really enjoy it. I would really recommend trying out glamping if you fancy doing something a little different, and Norfolk really is the perfect place to do it. It’s really fun getting outside and getting back to basics, plus a hangover is a lot more fun when you’re sitting round the fire with a fry-up the next day. As I said, Norfolk also has so much more just around the corner with gorgeous beaches and coastal towns, plus the woods nearby.

72893_10151373018412617_284052745_n 65631_10151373024387617_3690052_nWe had lots of fun exploring places nearby and acting like tourists in the sunshine – of course, not complete without fish & chips at the seaside and huge luxury ice creams. I loved being on holiday somewhere so close to home because it meant we knew where all the good stuff was and we knew the great places to go for food. We also discovered lots of lovely pubs along the way! Definitely a brilliant way to spend the weekend, and a birthday. Let’s hope this year’s celebrations are just as amazing!

Have you tried glamping – what did you think? And have you holidayed at home?



Loving life in London town and celebrating in the sunshine


The view across the London Eye and Houses of Parliament in the sunshine

I still haven’t quite managed to get back to reality after last week’s mid-week break to London – I just keep wishing I was back strolling along the South Bank drinking wine in the sunshine! Me and the boyfriend had the trip planned after he bought me tickets to see Ella Eyre at XOYO for Christmas – both very excited after seeing her perform the other year on tour with Rudimental. Unfortunately a change in the date of the gig meant the tickets had the wrong date on and we ended up missing the gig – so no Christmas present but we more than made up for it with an epic couple of days.


Sunshine and smiles on the bridge

When we arrived in London we decided to ignore our previous plans to head to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit and to the British Museum for the exhibitions on Egyptians and Vikings – it was just far too sunny to be inside looking at history. Instead we headed straight to Embankment with plans of grabbing some lunch and sitting out in the sunshine. As we walked out of the station and towards the bridge, we came across a food festival.


Mark with his lucky heather


We could resist heading into the gardens were there were various stalls selling jerk chicken, pasta dishes, African cuisine and even fish dogs (fish finger hot dogs!). We plumped for a lobster bite, which was absolutely delicious, followed by black truffle mushroom risotto balls stuffed with Italian cheese and with a tasty ragu – incredible! We were glad for these later on when we ended up not getting the chance to eat again until late! While we ate, we sat in these beautiful gardens with a great view of the London Eye.


Afterwards we walked across the bridge to South Bank and strolled along in the sunshine watching the street theatre and listening to live music. I loved the steel drums, while Mark was the perfect target for anyone selling anything from ‘lucky’ heather to bibles!


The bendiest rasta men I have ever seen!


Mark with his lucky heather

We must have walked miles, stopping now and then to sit in bars drinking wine in the sunshine and trying to remember where we were going. As we were walking, we found some leaflets for a gig that night in Camden Market where a ska orchestra would be playing at Dingwalls. We figured this was a perfect replacement for Ella Eyre and decided to head there instead of to Soho to watch a jazz band. After a quick stop at the Restup Hostel (genuinely nicer than hotels we have stayed in previously in London, perfect position for going out all over and my first choice more often than not).

10003439_10151937972882617_1889696327_nWe grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few drinks then headed to Camden where The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and another ska act would be playing later on. It was a great little venue – slap bang in the middle of Camden, dark and full of interesting characters – just my kind of place. The bands were great, really lively and energetic – they had everyone up and dancing from the beginning. I’ve never seen any other music have such a awesome effect on a group of people with such different backgrounds, ages and jobs – it really has such a good atmosphere and has got me all excited for the summer at BoomTown fair. The band played such a range of instruments and were really talented – I was very impressed.

1622840_10151937973082617_110445465_n 1012138_10151937973202617_1120837800_nWe danced long and hard and my legs were killing me by the end after a day spent walking all over London. The next day we spent eating our way round the food stalls at Camden Market nursing our hangovers before heading home. A great few days in London where we achieved nothing we planned to do but had loads of random fun. It was great to get away and really hard to come back to work after this followed by the weekend. It was also our eight year anniversary over the weekend – quite an achievement in itself! Can’t quite believe we’ve been together for more than a quarter of my life now – we must be doing something right!


Do you love spontaneous trips like this or do you prefer to plan every second? What’s the most random thing you’ve come across in London?


Exploring Malta, Gozo and Comino – from hidden caves to edible delights

I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about one of my favourite holidays ever – my 2012 trip to Malta with my boyfriend. Despite not being the most exotic, or the longest-haul journey I have ever been on, it was definitely up there as one of my favourites because there was quite simply so much to learn and explore.

We settled on Malta after realising that we could not afford to go to Italy with everything else we had planned and from our research we believed that Malta held many similarities, at least enough to keep us happy and not feel like we were sacrificing our summer holiday. Being a very inquisitive pair, we get bored easily and although we wanted to come back feeling refreshed and relaxed, we also wanted to have the opportunity to learn about a different culture by exploring the history and sights. Well, we certainly picked the right place because Malta boasts a rich heritage and culture that had us out almost every day walking across the rocky shores and through the bustling city of Valletta.

We stayed in Mellieha – an area more often chosen for holidays by Italian, Greek and German families as we found out, but which worked well to our advantage as we hate to go abroad and find ourselves surrounded by English people. It was beautiful, very hilly and incredibly traditional – the building pictured above was at the top of a steep hill leading down to the sea and the view at the top of this post is from the very top of the hill looking across the bay. Here we are enjoying a nice cold local beer (Cisk) at a tiny bar for locals we discovered after walking right to the top of the hill.

The fantastic bus services and ferry service (far superior to the UK in every way!) meant we were able to get out and about independently, even organising ourselves on to boat trips out to nearby islands Gozo and Comino. The size of the islands also meant it was very easy to travel right across the island several times during the day as you went between the sights.

I loved the boat trip over to the nearby islands – we travelled around the bay to see the caves surrounding the island and into Gozo harbour, then on to Comino where were able to get off the boat for a few hours.

This is me standing at the top of a rock looking over the Blue Lagoon on Comino – stunning clear waters between the two beaches that enticed us so much we decided to walk across the shallow bay and carry our bags above our head – it was deeper than I expected and being a shortie I did have to swim some of the way while my boyfriend laughed at me.

During the 10 days we spent in Malta we also took a trip to Valletta where we explored the cake shops hidden in the winding streets, explored the harbour and the cathedral, the Grandmaster’s Palace, museums, the forts and library. It was an incredible day packed with history and culture, but unfortunately you were not allowed to take pictured in all of the places we visited so I only have the following:

It was a great day and I would heartily recommend that anyone visiting Valletta makes sure to pop into the Grandmaster’s Palace to watch the changing of the guard, the fortifications, and St John’s Co-Cathedral is nothing else – make sure to wear clothes covering your legs and arms out of respect.

Our hotel organised an evening visit to a Festa in a nearby village – a Saturday night packed with food, live music and entertainment, and fireworks. Perfect.

We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbour in the village, fresh pasta and seafood – delicious, before heading round to the festa.

It was a lovely evening and one I would really recommend – the music was great and the fireworks were VERY impressive!

Then we spent a day trekking around Gozo and visiting all of the sights, we didn’t make it to the temples unfortunately but managed to see a lot of other sights. One of my favourites was the Citadel which surrounded the town. Here I am standing at the top in the baking heat.

Then we moved on to the Azure Window – another favourite. Amazing to see the crashing waves powering through the window while we swam in a small tidal pool beneath – I loved visiting this spit and didn’t want to leave, especially when we discovered a secret beach behind it and locals sitting by their “beach huts” next to the lagoon. This was the reason we missed the temples, but it was worth it.

This was followed by a trip back across the harbour as the sun was setting.

Malta was definitely one of my favourite countries I have ever holidayed in because there is just so much to do, but it is still a spectacular place if you just want to sit by the pool and relax – we did plenty of both, but my absolutely favourite thing we did there was EAT!

The food was incredible everywhere we went, from the local bakery where they sold spinach and cheese pastries, to The Arches restaurant which sold the finest quality (expensive but worth it) venison, lamb and wine – so good we went twice! If you ever travel there, be sure to eat and drink for it will make you very merry!

Pictures are all my own.

Review: Heading to the Aqua Sana Spa to feel revitalised after a busy weekend

After a busy weekend meeting up with my university friends, a crazy night out of dancing in high heels, drinking cocktails and a day of eating food that is very bad for me, it was time to detox. With Friday and Monday off either side of the weekend, I was excited to have a few days off work to really relax and let my body catch up on itself. A big part of this was booking a spa day at the Aqua Sana at my closest Centerparcs (Elvedon).

My friend and I booked the pair’s Spa Day with Decleor Aromatherapy Mind and Body Re-energiser treatment. This gave us all day to enjoy the spa and all of its gorgeous steam rooms, sauna, outdoor heated pool and waterbeds. My favourite steam rooms are the Turkish Hammam to start because the menthol scent is great for clearing the lungs with some deep breathing. This followed by the Indian Blossom room, which is my absolute favourite – the scene is divine! Then the Japanese Salt Steam which is also  gorgeous and great for building up a sweat before a cool shower and heading outside to the newly-refurbished pool.

We enjoy a spa day every few months as a treat, but it has been closer to a year since the last one – life just got in the way this time! But it was great to go back after a longer break because the pool had clearly been replaced with brand new pressure jets, seating areas and massage sections which were amazing. Plus the fact that this time it was rather cooler outside meant the heat of the pool was completely enveloping like a warm blanket. But I think one of my favourite parts has to have been the nap I had on one of the water-beds – I definitely need one of these in my life! They offer total relaxation and within seconds of laying my head upon the pillow, I am drifting away into a deep sleep.

We had breakfast and lunch at the Vitale restaurant in the spa, both provided as part of the deal we booked. We enjoy a delicious raspberry and vanilla pastry with hot chocolate and coffee. Later, at lunch, we enjoy fresh paninis in soft, white bread with fillings such as roasted vegetables with grilled halloumi and pesto, and roasted peppers with brie accompanied by fresh juices and water. We followed this with a treat of a chocolate, hazelnut praline truffle cake each – to die for.

After a few more hours relaxing around the spa and warm showers, we headed to the treatment rooms for our Decleor Aromatherapy Mind and Body Re-energiser. Described as “A heavenly massage of easing the tension from mind and muscles. Skin is treated to the wonderfully soothing sensation and exquisite aroma of a warm Decleor Aromaessence Balm. The expert touch of your therapist’s hands melts away stress and eases tense, tired muscles to unwind body and spirit leaving you with renewed energy.”

The treatment was divine, it started with a back massage that led to arms and legs being moisturised and massaged with oils, before finishing with a facial. For one hour I was truly in heaven and my muscles were oh so grateful after the stresses and exertions of the last few months. My shoulders appreciated the massage more than anything and it was lovely to have my face pampered and left softer than a baby’s you-know-what after the oils, masks, creams, lotions and potions had been applied.

I had a wonderful time at the spa and for the money we paid – £90 each – it was incredibly good value. We had a treatment worth over £70, two meals, access to the spa, steam rooms, sauna and pool all day and robes and towels provided. I have been to other spas in the area and have yet to find one that offers quite as good a deal, and such good quality  every time. Elvedon also offers far better a spa than the Sherwood Forest spa in Nottinghamshire, from my experience. I’m already counting down to when I can book the next one!

Pictures from The Good Spa Guide.