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!

 

travel · walt disney world

Walt Disney World – A Quick Trip Report

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I’m back in the land of the normal living (barely!), as I recently returned from a fifteen night stay at Walt Disney World. I’m not actually sure what number trip this was, as I’ve actually lost count. (how bad is that?!)

We travelled as a group again – 5 adults and 1 toddler, so stayed in a 2 bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs Resort. This works out for us, as we all have our own separate space. This really isn’t my favourite resort, its just too big! Included in our reservation was the free Disney Dining Plan again, this was amazing. This year one alcoholic beverage was included with the meal. The server would say which drinks this was.

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We hit all the parks multiple times (actually Disney Hollywood Studios was only once!) and the family did a water park. (I don’t like them, so I skip that day). We visited Disney Springs a lot, as its so close to our resort.

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We also changed it up a little this year by including a 3 night Disney cruise in the middle (all my idea, and was the first ever cruise for all my family). I will do another blog post on that separately.

Dining wise – we did have quite a few ADR’s booked, but ended up cancelling some and making new ones for on the day! We had no issues getting last minute reservations, sometimes its nice to be more spontaneous and not so rigid in the days plans.

So we tried out Toyko Dining and Garden Grill for the first times. (Pictured below is the bento Box from Tokyo Dining) We also headed over to Fort Wilderness and Trails End for a special meal for the vegans in my family. They had a 7 course meal! The rest of us had the normal buffet and I tried a Moonshine Margarita. My absolute favourite was Brunch at California Grill – again another separate post on that.

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I only did one new tour this trip, which was the Caring for Giants at Animal Kingdom. I managed to ride Flight of Passage another three times! It’s just so clever, and it really has shot into my top rides list.

The Flower and Garden Festival was still on whilst we was there, I love this festival. Epcot is so pretty with all the extra flowers and topiaries. I also enjoyed the Coco exhibit in the Mexico pavilion, and the gods one in Norway.

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I finally saw Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, and I was so disappointed. It just didn’t feel like it tugged on my emotions like Wishes did. I also feel they tried to shoehorn in too many characters, I get that its nice to highlight others, but was just too many for me! And I watched it more than once, and still didn’t enjoy it.

I did one disneybound this year – I went as Lilo! I took far too many Disney wall photos and made my parents honourary photographers for the trip.

If you want to listen to my trip overview, I actually was on the Disney dream Girls Podcast last week – here is the link! http://disneydreamgirlspodcast.blogspot.com/

If anyone has any questions or needs any tips for future trips – please feel to ask!

 

Outings

Ocean Liner Exhibit, V & A Museum

 

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A few weekends ago I visited the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibit at the V & A Museum, London. The museum website described it as “Experience a unique journey through the design stories of the world’s greatest ocean liners, including the Titanic, Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Canberra, and find out how these impressive vessels helped shape the modern world.” It is running presently until June 17th 2018.

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I wanted to visit the exhibit after going on two cruises, and thought it would be an interesting subject, with lots of history. The exhibit was much quieter and more adult friendly. There was more space, and didn’t feel like you had to rush.

It started off with lots of posters advertising cruises and the ships back in the day, there was also an old black and white video, and models of ships.

The next few rooms were all actual items from past cruises and ships. Doors, furniture, carpets, vases etc. All with the signage next to it, saying the ship and year, with a little information.

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On a cruise, you realise how tasteful everything is, and it was back in the day – maybe even more so. Some of them were so glamorous – and they sold it that way!

On ships, they had the classes broken up into different sections of the ship. The first class lounge had prime location – mid ship, on a higher deck, as if it was bad weather – this is the best place to be.

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There was a room dedicated to the engine and mechanics. This room was dark and painted black so it gave you the feeling of being lower down on a ship.

The best part was the ‘Life on board’ section, there was a big screen showing the sea with a railing to give you the impression you was on the ship! There were mannequins showcasing staff uniforms, and the swimming wear from old times. There was even a deck chair from the titanic!

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They had videos showing, with the room broken into smaller sections – so the cabin rooms, dining, fashion etc. Lots of pieces to look at.

The last room had an actual piece of The Titanic in – and even more surprisingly it was the first time it had been back in Europe since it had set sail! There was also a short video clip with movies/films with ships featured, one was Titanic by James Cameron. It just makes me feel instantly sad!

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Overall, I enjoyed the exhibit and would recommend if you was interested in the good old days of luxury cruise ships and liners, and like learning about the history of them. We went on a Saturday, and I booked the tickets about an hour before going, so it’s not too busy.