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!).

 

disney cruise · travel

Castaway Cay, The Bahamas

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On most Disney cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean, you will make a stop at Disney’s private island – Castaway Cay. The island is approximately three miles long and two miles wide, so its not very big! Disney have also left a lot of the island to be undeveloped.

The island is almost broken into two – Castaway Family beach and Serenity Bay – Serenity Bay is an adults only beach!!

There is food on the island for lunch (it’s a bbq which is included in the cruise price), a few shops, (exclusive merch!), character meets and lots of things to do. There is a tram provided for you to get around, or you can walk. We have now tried both options.

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I also found out recently that it won an award – 2017 Cruisers’ Choice top-rated cruise line private island destination.

On our most recent cruise, we had two stops at Castaway Cay due to a change of itinerary. So we explored a lot more of the island as we wasn’t so pressed for time. On the first stop, we hired the bikes.

The bike trail is also the 5k trail (You can sign up for free for the 5K and get a medal!). The price to hire (current of March 2018) was $12 for the hours hire. We cycled all round, found a few photo ops, and went to the Observation tower.

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It is a nice trail, it’s all flat, the pavements are wide and you can cycle at whatever speed you wish. We went all the way down to the other lookout at the end of Serenity Bay.

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After all my exercise and lunch, we treated ourselves to the cocktail of the day, which that day was a Bahamamama.

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On the second stop we hired a kayak. It was slightly windy so it was hard work, we was only out twenty minutes! But we did get a different view of the ship, and I attempted some photos on my partners phone. After we found a hammock, and just chilled. It was lovely, we could hear the music, the sun was shining, it was one of those moments you don’t forget.

Its a very pretty island with amazing blue seas( I can never get over the colour!) and photos needing to be taken around every corner! I hope I get to return again.

Have you been to Castaway Cay? What was your favourite part? Do you want to go?

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travel

Flashback Friday – Luxembourg

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A few weeks ago we went to Luxembourg for three nights. The flights were ridiculously cheap, it was £39 each! And for the first time ever, I did hand luggage only!

The first evening was the usual of walking around and just seeing near your hotel. I also had an awful cold and cough, so I had no energy and we didn’t explore too far.

The next day, we took a bus into the centre. We wondered around and saw a kind of look out point, so we walked over. This was good views of the Adolphe Bridge (see top picture).

Before going I had read about a hot chocolate shop that I wanted to visit, and it was in the area we was in! Its called Chocolate House by Nathalie Bonn, and it was amazing! In the shop was lots of chocolate’s, and cakes, and also a wall of chocolate spoons! The lady suggested having our hot chocolate in the shop. So you choose a spoon, took it upstairs, they offer you milk (they had everything – lacto free, soya etc.), you are then given the mug of hot milk, which you stir your chosen spoon into, with a little tub of cream and a marshmallow each. It was delicious!

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On my list of things to do was the Casemates du Bock – these are underground tunnel’s from years ago which was built under a castle. The castle is no longer there, but the passages couldn’t be destroyed as part of the city would have been lost! So they have been kept open for visitors as a UNESCO world heritage site. It was super cold down there!

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We wondered and walked all round the old part (which is also the centre), this was definitely the prettiest part. We ended up going to a supermarket on the way back to the hotel and having a chill night.

The next day, we went back to the centre and I wanted to go to the new observational lift. Pfaffenthal lift takes you down to ‘the grund’. We expected queue or something – but was quiet. So we did that, and there was nothing open on the bottom! You could walk back up the long and winding steep hill, but I refused! So used the lift back up.

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We saw the statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte, we went to Notre Damn, and had more food out.

Then it was the last day, we checked out of the hotel and went back into the centre, only to discover all the shops were shut! (it was a Sunday), so we stopped outside the Grand Ducal palace so I could take a few photos. They also do tours inside, but only in the summer. So we took a slow walk (about 20 minute’s or so) to the bus garage so we could get a bus to the airport (it cost 2 euros!).

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I’m going to be honest in this post… I wouldn’t recommend Luxembourg. The flight was lovely and short, 50 minutes! But the cab to the hotel was fifty two euros, just because we wasn’t in the centre of luxeumbourg city (which I hadn’t booked as wanted a cheap break). Everything was expensive, and we did most of the tourist stuff in 1 day. It was also strange that it was such a mash up of other countries, it didn’t feel like it had its own identity. There are much nicer cities in Europe with more to do.

 

travel

Flashback Friday – Route 101 Road Trip, West Coast USA

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So this was the trip that kick started it all. Once I was back from this trip, I was hooked on travelling and holidays. I mean, I always was before – but this ignited some kind of fire!

This was one of my favourite holiday’s ever. It’s actually been 4 years next month that we did this amazing adventure.

Road trips and cruises are the way forward – you see so much!

We drove over 1000 miles, across 3 states and stayed in 7 hotels over 15 nights. We even got matching Route 101 signs tattooed during the trip!

I honestly don’t even know how it came about, one minute it was being discussed and joked about, then I got serious and started looking and planning!

I’m not going to lie, it was costly. The flights was about £750 each as we flew in and out of different airports. The car hire was also a big amount, they charge a flat non refundable fee of $300 just to drop the car off at a different state. That was on top of the car hire amount!

The hotels we stayed in, with the exception of one wasn’t too expensive or luxurious.

We flew into Seattle, and flew out of LAX. I did want to do the whole route of 101, but struggled to find a flight out of San Diego, so our trip ended in LA. I also booked all the hotels before we left, so I knew we always had a destination to put in the sat nav and a warm bed for the night.

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We did and saw and experienced too much for this one blog post, so I’m just going to stick to the highlights.

We stayed in Seattle 3 nights before moving on. We went to Pike Place Market, and went into the original Starbucks, (I bought a mug!), we went on the Seattle monorail and up the space needle. We walked all round the city and explored. It wasn’t my favourite place, and I probably wouldn’t go back here.

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We headed to a hotel on the coast for one night, still in the Washington State. We drove through the town where Kurt Cobain was from. After we drove to Oregon, we stayed at a few hotels along this state.

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I also ended up buying a jacket from Wal Mart as it was so chilly, windy and rainy! The weather was awful in parts, and we was driving metres from the water at some points. It really was scary, we missed a tree being blown down across a road by minutes.

We drove to and stayed in a cute little town called Seaside, and had a lunch in Tsunami café! There was signs everywhere pointing to safe sites, and with the weather the way it was – it was a bit worrying!

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We drove through the Red Forest, which was amazing. They are tallest trees in the world! We parked up the car, and got out to take photos. We didn’t see anyone else the whole time. We also stopped and paid to do the SkyTrail – which is a gondola ride through part of the forest. Its meant to offer amazing views, but sadly the weather stopped our views at the top! We also was now in California!

We stayed in a family run hotel where they put up a notice where people are from each evening, and we sat with a cool older couple who was doing a road trip on a motorbike.

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We then stayed 3 nights in San Francisco – I drove across the Golden Gate bridge! I felt a little let down by San fran, I know we didn’t have much time, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

The biggest disappointment  was at the time, there was polictical issues happening and all national parks was shut, this included Alcatraz! Which we had tickets for. So we swapped to a boat ride under the bridge, and around the Alcatraz island.

But we did ride a cable car, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf – saw the Seals (got the tattoo), had an ice cream at the original Ghiradelli’s and went to The Walt Disney Family Museum! I loved this place , and we spent a few hours one afternoon there. Any Walt / Disney fan should go see it.

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After San Francisco, I had a request to stay at The Madonna inn – I had wanted to for years since I read Belinda Jones book – The California Club.

Take a look at the rooms – each one is individual and themed! We stayed in one of the famous rock fall shower rooms – Bridal Falls. Its a very pink hotel – the exterior, all the finishing touches, even the sugar for your coffee!

http://www.madonnainn.com/features.php

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After our stay here, we headed further south in California, where we had 3 nights in Anaheim. That’s right we managed to squeeze in two days at Disneyland! I was desperate to see the newly opened Carsland, which fitted in perfectly with our road trip! I was not let down by that! Sheer genius and amazing Imagineering at work there.

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But the day before that we had a spare day in California with no plans. So an impromptu whale watching boat trip was booked up. And OH MY GOD we saw a blue whale! It was incredible, I got all choked up. Dolphins swam along and played with the boat. It was an amazing 2 hours. (I was also in t-shirt and shorts by this time in our trip!). Also later that night we had dinner at Medieval Times where our blue team won – woo!).

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I mean, just wow, there’s probably loads I’ve missed out, but honestly such an amazing eye opening experience. Being on the open road, not knowing what each day would bring.

I would LOVE to do another road trip again, and definitely different states. I loved the planning and researching, and when it all came together so well, I felt so proud of myself.

Have you ever taken a road trip? Would you want to?

 

travel

Flashback Friday – Montreal & Toronto, Canada

 

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So late last year (about Mid October) we flew to Montreal in Canada. We was looking at another European break, but I found some crazy cheap flights to Canada, so we went with that option!

We stayed three nights in Montreal. On the first day we wondered all round the old town (which is by far the prettiest). We also went through all the underground malls, as the winters get so bad there, there is basically underground towns which are connected all over. To save people braving the weather up top!

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We also tried Poutine for the first time that evening (not one of my favourite’s!). We also visited the Botanical Gardens, where at the time the Gardens of Light was on. Was really pretty with all the light up animals and displays, but it was chilly!

The next day we took an Uber to Mont Royal – a massive park with a cool look out point. For the rest of the day, again just grabbed a lunch and took in more of the city. We had a very early start the next morning, so had an early night!

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We got a train from Montreal to Toronto, I think it took about four and half hours, also because it was the earliest one, it was the cheapest option! We was going to stay in Toronto four nights before flying home from there.

 

We dropped our cases off as the room wasn’t ready and walked into the city. We saw lots of people wearing Blue Jays tops, so went to a Starbucks for some free wifi! There my fiancé found out a game was being played that night, and the stadium was a ten minute walk away! So he booked tickets! We didn’t realise until we was there, how big of a deal the game was! So we went to our first baseball game in Canada – we both did enjoy it, but such a long game!

The next day was another early start as we had a tour booked to go to Niagara Falls! Another bucket list item! The driver was really good and informative, gave us loads of interesting facts about Canada during the drive.

It was chilly that day, but you were given a poncho to wear, as the wind made the water go everywhere! The boat ride was about twenty minutes and takes you right up to the falls. You can’t believe how powerful it is! The noise and the spray, was a really cool experience. After the boat ride, you had a free hour and a half, so everyone had lunch.

We was then driven to this cute town called Niagara on the Lake, it’s been used in films and tvs. And you cant have a chain shop / restaurant there (but we did see a Starbucks so I’m not sure how it got through!). It was just just such a nice place, we went into a lovely café/coffee shop and I had a Maple tea. The last stop was a Canadian winery, where you were given samples of ice wine (yuk!) and the opportunity to buy some. This part really wasn’t needed on the tour, and at this point I just wanted to lie down and rest!

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The next day we had a lie in and relaxing morning, then we walked all the way back into town again to go up the CN tower. On most of our trips, we go to the towers/view points etc, and I think this was one of the worst!

As we was in the same area, we also went to the Steamwhistle brewery. A little tour and a beer included. It had a lovely wedding venue, that had over a two year waiting list for a Saturday!

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The next day, was our last full day. We visited the Distillery District – it was pretty with old building and cobblestones etc, but it was very small! We then walked to the famous food market – St Lawrence. It was huge! Stupidly, we didn’t get anything to eat or try here!

We also walked through the Yonge-Dundas Square – which is Toronto’s version of Times Square. We also had a quick walk through of the mall there. Since it was the last day, and we had already done so much in one week, we headed back to the hotel, watched a film and packed!

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I did like Canada, but I don’t think it was the parts I wanted to see. They were both busy built up areas, so was almost two city breaks. We both agreed we wanted to see more rural and country sides. But most of that seemed to be on the Western side – which then knocks flight prices up. I also was disappointed with the lack of maple flavoured things – I thought there would be loads!!

Has anyone ever visited Canada, where did you go? Did you like it? I  know this year is a big year for Canada, as its their 150th birthday!

 

walt disney world

Art of Animation Resort – Little Mermaid Photo ops!

At my last visit at the world, I stayed at Art of Animation for three nights. I stayed by myself, so managed to get a Little Mermaid room!

I had visited this hotel on two occasions previously, and had loved the Cars section the most.

Whilst I was at my room, I wondered round my section each evening and noticed how many photo ops there was! I know there is lots in other resorts too, but this one just had so many!

I also had to walk through the Lion King section to get to the food court – and it also had lots! Not once walking through did I not spot someone taking a photo!

I loved it, thought it was great that Disney puts out these statues / pieces / sculptures – whatever you want to call them to add atmosphere, to plus up the experience and for great photo ops!

I’ve added some of my favourite’s from The Little Mermaid section. What about you – have you stayed here? Did you like it? Did you manage to grab some great photo ops?

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