Outings

Brooklands Hotel, Weybridge

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Last weekend I had a lovely start to the week! We had booked a Sunday Group Getaway at the Brooklands Hotel, for £110 each (based on 4 sharing). For that price: One night accommodation in a two bedroom suite, one treatment each (we all had the back massage), use of the spa facilities, use of bathrobes and slippers, afternoon tea, breakfast and a 2pm late check out.  I think it was such a good deal, and we booked it over six weeks ago.

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We arrived just after check in (about 3.30pm), and the room was ready. The room was huge, one of the biggest I’ve ever stayed in! One bedroom had a double bed, the other two singles, each had a big bathroom, there was a desk/office area, a living room area with sofa and TV, and a big table with six chairs plus our own huge decking area outside with table and chairs – which overlooked the racetrack!

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Our treatment was actually booked on the first day, so we all rushed down to the spa and had our twenty five minute back massage each (massages are always so nice and relaxing right?). The spa part was unusually busy, so all the chairs and beds were taken and the hot tub was full. We also wasn’t feeling the sauna and steam room (unusually placed in the changing room). So we headed back to our huge room, and just sat in our robes and slippers and chilled on the deck. We had bought our own prosecco, snacks and small bites to eat. Also to note – there is no pool here.

The hotel is actually next to/inside Mercedes Benz world, so I had great fun watching people drive and race around the track. That ended at 6pm, so it wasn’t at all noisy in the evening, it was very peaceful and relaxing.

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We had a very late night, also random point, the bed was so soft, like sleeping on a marshmallow (bit too soft for all of us).

The next day we had breakfast (the lovely thing was it was served until 11!), there was a whole mini room of food on offer! One side was full English (mmm fried bread!) and the other was continental, there was juices too, and we had hot drinks to the table. It was very tasty, and the restaurant wasn’t too busy.

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We also had decided we was getting a go in the hot tub before we left, so we changed and headed back to the spa. It was delightfully empty and quiet up there. We think everyone had left for room check out but as we had the late one, we was all good! So we claimed a round comfy bed, and chilled for a bit. The hot tub is outside but underneath a ceiling/awning and watched the cars (all Mercedes) and then got into the hot tub. So luxurious  on a Monday morning/afternoon and I had no Monday blues that week!

We spent a while here, ( so much nicer and calmer without loads of people) I did want to go to The Meditation Room (it was a twenty minute slot, but had to be pre-booked). So back to the room, (the showers was also very nice and powerful!) and changed. Packed and ready for afternoon tea.

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The restaurant was basically empty, but they took a while to bring the drinks and food out. It was nice, but I’ve had a lot better. The top tier of cakes etc, they were all too sweet and none of us managed to try everything. My favourite was the chocolate and caramel shortcake, but after that I had enough sugar.

Overall we had a great time, the room was amazing, the Monday at the spa part was great, the deal was definitely worth doing and we all wished it had been a two night stay. They do have other deals on at the moment, so for a treat for you and friends, I would recommend it!

 

 

 

travel

Day Trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Whilst on our latest holiday to Dubrvonik, we talked about tours and trips. I suggested looking on the Viator website, as I had used them twice before for a tour.

So on a lazy morning, we both used the apartment’s wifi and browsed. I was keen on Montenegro but the fiancé wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina, as I had chose the destination and the apartment, I thought I had better compromise somewhere! So we booked one up (also as I had a new email address I was registered as a new customer so got a 10% off promo code!).

The tour we chose was described as “Pair Bosnia-Herzegovina’s beautiful outdoor scenery with its historic monuments on this 10-hour excursion including a visit to Mostar and Kravice Waterfalls. Cross the Croatian border and stop to admire the splendor of these 80-foot (25-meter) cascades. Then head to Mostar for a guided walking tour of the Old Town, famous ‘Stari Most’ (bridge), and much more. Extra value for all our clients is free entrance ticket to Turkish house in Mostar, the most visited museum in this city.”

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We decided on this one as it was a small group rather than a huge bus.

It was a very early start, we got picked up outside a local hotel at 7.10am! The minibus did the usual of driving around hotels and picking people up. Once we was on our way, the friendly guide gave us facts about Croatia and the towns we passed. We seemed to drive along the main road which curved the coast, so it was very scenic.

In total we did six border crossings! You leave Croatia, then go into Bosnia-Herzegovina and then there is a strip of land 22km long which is then Croatia again, then back to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The tour guide takes your passports and gets off the bus to the little office. I was quite hoping for a stamp, but they didn’t do one!

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Once we was safely in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there was a short stop of 15 minutes then we was on our way to the Kravice waterfalls. I am going to admit here, you need more time allocated here then the town. This is a natural beauty and was so nice to sit and admire. I would have liked to have gone for a quick dip, but I felt so rushed! It was a long steep walk down, with lots of stairs and it was so hot already (and it was still the morning!).

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So we did have a walk round and down as far as we could go, so we sat there and cooled off in the shade, took a few photos. Then it was the hard slog back up! In total, I think we was off and on the bus for about an hour and fifteen. Then we was on our way to Mostar. Again passing towns and the tour guide giving us information and facts.

Once we was in Mostar, the bus parked in a car park and another tour guide collected us. She was local, and said was a walking tour about an hour, and would also include the trip to Turkish house. I was slightly concerned as she said people dress up as tourists but they are actually pickpockets! She said they wouldn’t do it whilst with her, but watch ourselves on the way back.

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We walked by the local church and down the streets, where some buildings still showed huge damage from the war in the 90’s. We then went to old town, where the streets were narrow, very busy and cobbled. There was restaurants, stalls and shops but we didn’t pause much as she was walking and talking along the way.

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We then got to the Stari Most bridge, Prince Charles re-opened it after some destruction and its now a UNESCO site. Lots of local men now jump from the top (they have to be physically fit and tested) and ask for money before jumping. It’s also now a stop on the Red bull cliff diving competition. We continued on, walking to the Turkish House – what they mean by this, is the house was a traditional Turkish family home and had been left to look around. We had to take our shoes off, as the carpets were old and hand sewn. So the tour guide talked again about tradition’s, and showed us a few things.

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There was a few minutes more walk, and then the tour was done – and we had our own free time, I think it was about an hour and a half. We had a fifteen minute walk back to the bus in that time. So me and my partner went to a restaurant, and had a sit down. We both had a iced coffee and a baklava (the slice was huge!). We then wondered back the same way we came, through the markets and over the bridge. It really was so hot that day, definitely hotter than Croatia! So we walked back to the car park and waited for the cool air conditioned bus.

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We then started the same drive back – with the three border crossings, and back to Croatia. As we was the third pick up, we was the third drop off. We didn’t get back into the room until about 6.50pm. I was so shattered!

I liked the tour, it wasn’t my favourite that I’ve done, it was definitely interesting to see another country whilst already visiting a new one! I didn’t think i would ever expect to tick that country off my list too! I wouldn’t return to Bosnia-Herzegovina, as it’s not my type of holiday. Have you done a day trip / tour on a holiday? Where did you go?

 

 

 

travel

My First AirBnB

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On my last trip which was to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I was looking on my usual – booking.com and found there wasn’t that many hotels. (and also as it got nearer to the holiday, prices increased a lot!)

In Dubrovnik, it was a lot of apartments, villas etc to rent/stay in. Once I thought about it, this trip I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. I didn’t want to be restricted with their breakfast times, and be fighting for a sunbed. I wanted to buy local food and drink, and be on our own time and our own space.

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In the end I did book one, but it was a bedroom/bathroom with a shared kitchen. In all honesty, I booked it for the view from the balcony!

But it kept bugging me that I didn’t like it, so I browsed AirBnB for a while. I’m sure I looked at what felt like hundreds of properties, but it got quite fun and addictive. But I already had my flight booked, so my dates were set, it was just 2 of us and I knew my budget, so I could easily filter through them.

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In the end, I booked one. I signed up to the website, and you have to make a small profile and upload a photo of yourself. There is a nightly fee plus a cleaning charge which is then added at the end, so make sure you check the final amount before booking!

I’m not going to lie, I was a little daunted at handing all my money over to a stranger for a room! The money went out quite quickly too, and I had visions of there being not an actual room! But I knew it was a big company, I had email confirmation and a profile with a confirmed booking, so I was going to create hell if it was fictional!

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I messaged the owner asking about how far it was from the airport, and she replied with the time and also an offer for someone to pick us up (for a fee). We discussed it, and as we had a late flight, we didn’t want a normal taxi to be driving around for ages getting lost, so we did go with her suggestion.

I also had my name on a sign for when we arrived (I’ve always wanted that for some reason! Anyone else?!). The driver (her friend?cousin? I don’t know!), was friendly and polite and had a nice clean Audi. When we got there, he let us in and that was it. There was a laminated sheet with her name and number and which bus to get.

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I would have liked to met the owner, as we didn’t know where the bus stop was, where everything was kept, what to do with bins etc, or leave keys on last day! She did text me on the last day saying sorry she didn’t get to meet us, so I’m not sure if other AirBnBs you do meet them at some point?

It was cute though, it was a studio apartment, with a kitchen, bathroom and a big balcony. The balcony has table and chairs, a swinging seat and some plants. You did have to walk up about 11 steps as she was on the first floor (this was mentioned in the advert for the place which is nice for future guests). She said it had recently been decorated, and it looked and felt clean and new. The photos was true to what it looked like.

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Once the holiday/stay was over, (I didn’t realise this), but she left me feedback as a guest on my profile, and then I left a review on her place. I guess its like eBay – everyone can learn from each other then!

I did really like the AirBnB, the process was easy and I would definitely use it again! How about you – have you used it? Found any amazing places to stay?

travel

Flashback Friday – Dubrovnik, Croatia

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I’ve just recently returned from a five night trip to Dubrovnik. Croatia has been on my list for several years now, and finally I can tick it off the list!

Its a small country, about four million people live there, and it lies all along a coast alongside the Adriatic Sea (for geography wise – on the world map, think of the sea to the right of Italy).

It’s a pretty place with lots of views, I also learnt its very hilly, steep and tons and tons of steps, I felt like I got a 5 day workout!!

Whilst there, we went to the Old Town Dubrovnik, this is really cool and no tourist should exclude this off the visit list. It’s a high walled town, so no cars, lots of narrow walkways, cobbled pathways, (more) millions of stairs, hotels, restaurants and people live there. At the back is the harbour, and it’s also a famous filming location. Game of Thrones films the Kings Landing and various other parts there, (there was plenty of walking tours you could do, but we opted not to). It felt so historic, and modern at the same time, and you could spend hours just walking and looking around.

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I am glad we didn’t book a stay there though – one for not having to carry a case around and finding it, but two the views probably wouldn’t be as good.

We also paid for the return trip on the cable cars, which (obviously!) gives you great views. You can see old town and Lokrum.

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Another day, after a lazy morning we took the boat to Lokrum, which is described as     a beautiful, forested island full of holm oaks, black ash, pines and olive trees, only a 10-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Old Harbour”. I did learn whilst there it was inhabited by monks for years and they put a curse on it?! I’m not a very outdoorsy person, and I didn’t particularly want to hike in the baking hot sun for hours! But we did a little walk, found a nice spot to rest, saw the tame bunnies and peacocks, walked round the botanical gardens and had lunch etc.

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We also did a 12 hour day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina – which I will do another blog post about.

Another day we popped to the local beach, which was Sunset Beach, I wanted to rent a cabana, but they was all gone! We didn’t stay long, as it was busy and it was super hot, and we don’t sunbathe. I also found a bar in a local hotel – which was very cool as it was a cave bar! They found the cave during the construction of the hotel and decided to keep it as a feature. So we had a cocktail and a look round.

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We also did the usual of buying some food, taking it back to the room, eating and drinking on the balcony. I managed to read a whole book. We sat out of an evening and listened to the bars from a few levels down by the beach and looked at the stars. It really was needed, and I could have done with another day!

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Overall, I really did enjoy Dubrovnik, it felt like a city break as there was the built up tourist area (old town) but also a proper summer holiday, as the weather was so nice, the vibe was chilled, I felt completely safe and unpressured. There was lots of tours to do, I was eyeing up a boat tour of the elafiti islands or a wine tour day!

Only thing is – it’s not as cheap as I think we think it is! Before I went, I spoke to someone and he said when he first went years ago it was mega cheap and great value, but now they’ve got wise and increased prices. We literally spent every penny we had (and used our cards for uber/tour!).

 

walt disney world

Caring for Giants Tour, Animal Kingdom

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On my last trip I ticked off another backstage tour at Walt Disney World. This was the Caring for Giants tour. I actually booked and paid for all us 5 adults a Christmas present!

The tour is described on the Disney website as “Get a closer look at the majestic African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—and learn what it takes to care for them”.

This is definitely one of the cheaper tours priced at $30 each (prices correct as of June 2018), and a short one at 1 hour long. the groups are quite small, maybe twelve people. It also runs approx. ten times a day, so it’s easier to get a spot when booking. We was also told the money from the tour, went to the charities and conservation funds that Animal Kingdom support.

You check in just by Kilamanjaro Safaris, given a lanyard with a name tag (which is made from recycled elephant poo!) and are taken backstage straight away to a waiting minivan. This then drives you round the property to the back of the safari. You are not allowed to take any photo’s at this point, and the driver is friendly and chatty, and was asking questions.

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Once out of the van, you walk up a new looking ramp to where the tour will take place. Once at the top, and by the fence, you are allowed to take photos. You are now at the elephant place on the ride – So essentially it feels like you are still on Kilamanjaro Safaris – you even see the trucks going past!

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There are two cast members with you, they talk about the elephants, the ones that are in the park at the moment, including baby Stella, where they stay, what they eat etc., and always ask if anyone has questions. The second cast member was from South Africa and worked for years on a national park, she had lots of funny stories about elephants and used her past job to talk about her current role at Disney.

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You are also given the opportunity to have a photo with the elephants in the background – these are taken by the CM’s.

Overall I did like the tour, it wasn’t one of my favourite’s as is so short! But it’s always nice to go backstage and learn more about how everything works. I would recommend if you was a big fan of Animal Kingdom and/or elephants as you do get much better photo ops than from the truck.

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walt disney world

California Grill Brunch, Walt Disney World

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On our last trip, I had one dining request and that was brunch at California Grill. I’m a huge breakfast food fan and brunch is even better!

The only thing is, its Sundays only. So when our ADRs became available to book, I was straight on it – with no luck! We arrived on a Saturday, so we didn’t have too many Sunday’s, and as we was on a cruise, that whole weekend was out also. I left it for a bit (and sulked lets be honest), and a few weeks later tried again. And suddenly an opening had appeared, I grabbed that table pretty quick.

It was the first Sunday, so literally our first morning! As we had the Disney dining plan, it used up 2 credits each. Once you arrive you are given a glass of mimosa (ours didn’t have the orange juice in, it seemed like prosecco with boba balls – and judging by others photo’s, it does seem to change).

We was shown our table, the restaurant itself wasn’t overly packed, there was musicians there, it was sunny, and it was our first Disney morning! Life was good!

We was handed a menu, which was quite big! But the brunch is technically split into 2 parts – one is self serve with all the different sections and the other is the hot food which is bought to you.

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We all chose to walk around the self serve before making any selections, and boy is there a lot of food!

Bakery part with croissants and sweet treats, granola, sushi, charcatueri with meats and cheeses, a bloody mary bar (my sister had a virgin one with all the accompaniments which you choose yourself) a crepe section,(my mum had one and said it was really good) and you can eat as much as you want, and go back and forth! You know when there is loads of food you want to try, and when you get back to the table – you have such a mish mash of food on your plate!

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For the hot food menu, I chose the eggs benedict with salmon , along with another bellini. It was tasty, and I honestly was getting so full.

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They then bought over the dessert plate. This was mostly untouched as everyone was so full! But I did have a nice coffee with cream to round it all up, and nibbled on a few bits.

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During the meal, we wondered outside to admire the views, and it was nice, as I had only been there of an evening.

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I really enjoyed the brunch, and if anyone has done the Palo brunch on a Disney ship, its very very similar to that. It was pricey, but as we was on the DDP, we only paid for the service charge. I think this is a test, and if its popluar they will roll it out elsewhere or offer more than one day a week

If you wanted a special treat, or something different with less rush and kids, honestly I think its worth it! Lots of food, great views, drinks topped up, live music. Go and enjoy!

disney cruise · travel

Disney Cruise Number 3 – Disney Dream

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In the midst of our 15 night stay at Walt Disney World, I had the genius idea of checking to see if there was any Disney Cruises we could do, luck was on my side! There was a 3 night bahamisn cruise from Port Canavral right in the middle of our trip! I proposed the idea to the rest of the family, and it was a go!

 So we booked a 3 night  Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. Winning at life as I hadn’t been on this ship (and one of the reasons I suggested it!). The stops were Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s Castaway cay.

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We booked two rooms on deck 6 with a verandah. I did try to find adjoining rooms for us all but didn’t find any, but I did see 2 rooms and they was only  one room in the middle so we went with that. I stayed in a room with my sister and family, so I had the pull down bunk bed (which again was new for me). It was actually comfy, and I loved they put it back during the day so you had the space in the room again.

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We drove down to the Port, to save money and not pay for the bus. (Even though we did have to pay to park the car).

Let me tell you, 3 days goes so fast! Blink and you will miss it type situation. I think its a good starting point for cruises, but now because I have done 2 – both at a week each, it felt super short.

We watched the Sailing away Party, and ate in cabanas the first afternoon, and explored the ship. We had night in each restaurant. I think the favourite for everyone was Animator’s Palate.

We saw the shows, including the new one Beauty and the Beast. Some of us did one of my favourite parts – the ship tour! We saw a wedding being set up. We completed one game of the Midship Detective Agency on the last night! I for the first time watched the see ya real soon show. We didn’t actually spend any time in the adults only section which was a shame. The three night cruise also does include the Pirates night.

I loved the new addition to the ship – Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats. The theming is great with plenty of photo ops, and the food! Ice cream, gelatos (and they are very happy to give out samples – I tried 4!), cupcakes, macarons and lots of sweet goodies. It is an upcharge, but not too bad. I got one scoop of gelato (and it was in a tub but it was huge!) and it was $2.95.

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When we was in Nassau, we didn’t book any port Adventures, we just got off the ship and had a small walk (and a fresh coconut) and got back on the ship.

Everyone loved Castaway Cay, and new for me I stayed all day on the family side of the island and ate at Cookies BBQ. We hired bikes and cycled round. It was so hot the day we was there! It was another lovely day, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to say that I have visited Castaway Cay.

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I also realised I prefer the island with the smaller ships, but my favourite ship so far has been the Disney Fantasy.

So that’s another cruise and another ship ticked off the list! I am getting closer to ticking off an item on my Disney Bucket List!! I really didn’t think I would do so many cruises in such a short amount of time. I do feel I need to go back on the Disney Dream to stay and explore and have a sea day to see it all. (although it is very similar to the Fantasy as it is the sister ship!)

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What about you, have you been on a Disney Cruise? Is it on your travel/to do/Disney bucket list? If you have any questions, feel free to ask!