Babymoon – Mykonos

I have wanted to go to Mykonos for ages – so babymooning was an ideal time, as I wanted something with guaranteed nice weather, without having to travel too far, or stopover anywhere. You can fly direct to Mykonos from Heathrow, which is how we travelled. I was surprised as I was expecting to have to stopover in Athens so when I discovered direct flights, I was sold.

Given that we booked “last minute”, this holiday wasn’t cheap.. especially given the Greek economy is meant to be awful (though not sure how, as it’s so beautiful, weather is by and large always good and tourists are ripe!)

As always, travel blog will follow the same format of what we tried and tested, alongside several hundred beautiful pictures, as Mykonos is just gorgeous! I will say though – we wanted nothing more than to completely relax, so other than restaurants and our hotel (and Mykonos itself) we have literally nothing to review.. as we read, snoozed, and made the most of our last holiday for many years to come, child free!

Mykonos Blu Grecotel ๐Ÿ˜

This hotel looked lovely online – and really was! Somehow I had accidentally booked some kind of villa and we ended up with two huge beds (ideal as I needed lots of pillows for bump support!), 2 bathrooms, a jacuzzi bath and basically just an absolute tonne of space! I chose not to bother booking a private pool villa like normal, because you can sunbathe topless in Europe anyway, and I guess at some point I must have decided I wasn’t going to bother going fully naked [quite unlike me!!] this time… I’m glad I hadn’t booked one of these in order to sunbathe naked as they were all overlooked, so I couldn’t have been starkers anyway… not unless I was prepared to seriously shock some strangers!

Anyway, all in all, the hotel was just beautiful. White washed walls as you’d expect for Greece surrounded by beautiful blossoms. Neither of us thought the food was too badly priced as you normally find in-hotel the price of food is ramped up. This was useful as whilst I would normally have just breakfast and dinner on holiday, baby and I tended to get hungry at 3ish for some lunch! So we didn’t end up spending an absurd amount, but we didn’t go hungry!

The hotel has its own two-tier infinity pool, as well as having its own little private-beach/bay (Psarou: shared with two other hotels) for those sea lovers! This is where we spent most of our days as in a sucker for the sea/beach! The only downside to the beach was that it was quite stoney to walk on – I’m a super soft sand girl! Also, as we visited in May, the sea and pools were freezing (but beautiful and fine once you were in!) I expect if you visit later in the year the sea will be a beautiful temperature! The water was crystal clear beautiful.

Also – this hotel was fairly far out (5k) from Mykonos town itself, so you pretty much need to get a taxi in/out. This was โ‚ฌ10 each way and pretty quick, although we did discover at some point that the hotel seemed to have a car which would drop you in for free… but mostly when we asked, they’d just call us a taxi…!?!

Lastly, one thing I would say overall about Mykonos is that it’s not ideally set up for young children. There was a couple in our hotel with a toddler, but to me it seemed like hard work as there are lots of steps, particularly in hotels getting up and down to the beach etc!

breakfast at the hotel!

The only other things we have to review for this holiday, are restaurants. So here is where we went;

Nikos Gallop Restaurant

Nikos was across the road from our hotel. We actually went twice in the end as it was so cute with really great food – lots of different daily fresh fish choices, plus when we drove past it one evening when headed into town, it was absolutely packed, so we figured that was a good sign! They also are super extra friendly and welcoming to you when you go back, which was really sweet.

Eating on the boat at Nikos!

James was also pretty chuffed he got to eat out of a giant shell!

Mediterraneo Restaurant

Now, I apologise for doing this, and you’ll notice it as a theme, but some of the restaurants we chose were not exactly traditional Grecian. This Italian, is one of a few we visited, because little baby Marks wants CARBS. At this point, we loved a good pizza, and a good pizza this restaurant did. Everything you’d expect from a proper Italian pizza, and deliciously greasy which went down well with baby! They did however, struggle to comprehend having a cocktail without the alcohol – frankly, who can blame them?! – but we did get there eventually!

We also noticed as a bit of a theme in quite a few restaurants, being served “Mastika” as an after dinner shot. Some places it was nicer than others (particularly good at Nikos Gallop!) considering it smelt like Sambuca!

Petinos Taverna/Blue Myth Restaurant

This restaurant was within walking distance of our hotel, located within Petinos Beach area. The restaurant itself was slightly odd in that it seemed to be in some way affiliated with two restaurants across the road from it.. the menu’s were slightly different, but they seemed to be sharing waiting staff and the food seemed to also come from that direction! Decor wise they were quite different too, with the two across the road being a bit more super new-modern. Whilst Aggeliki was more modern classic..

When we visited neither of us were particularly hungry (but hungry enough to need something!) so we both just had starters, which were good, but the menu overall had looked really yummy, and staff were friendly but not pushy to get you to eat with them!

Trio Bambini ice cream!

There were a couple of these dotted around Mykonos old town. Normally I’d prefer traditional, individual ice cream shops on holiday, rather than a chain, but we’d be dammed if we could find after dinner these little unique ones we had kept walking past before dinner! Instead we kept stumbling upon Trio Bambini which had a huge selection of ice creams (sundae’s, crepes and waffles, come to think of it; think Treatz/Creams/Sprinkles/Kaspa’s dessert places we now have in the U.K.!) which more than did the trick.. I may have even had on our first night in Mykonos town, eyes bigger than my belly and requested one too many scoops! Who’d have thought that possible given the current size of my belly!!! Portions weren’t scrimped upon!

Pepper Souvlaki

We chose Pepper Souvlaki one night based largely on appearances… it was slightly hidden up cute little alleyways, plus I fancied Greek food dripping in yummy houmous/tzatziki etc. I wasn’t thrilled with the lamb feta burgers I ordered, but James had souvlaki (which I largely lived on at lunch ๐Ÿคค๐Ÿ˜!) which was really good. I guess baby reallly wanted carbs.. ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜‚

Mykonos Dove

This restaurant looked the part, from the outside, but really, wasn’t great. Once again it was down on Petinos Beach. They didn’t have a lot of what was offered in the menu, which I can only assume is because they’d only opened within the last week, but did have wood fired pizzas, so yep, you guessed it, pizza once again for me! Not that I was complaining as it’s what I wanted. The pizza was good and the restaurant was beautiful – although unfinished (more noticeable when you walked inside/used the facilities) – but I was just a bit miffed that most things I asked for from the menu, they didn’t have.

Casa di Giorgio Restaurant

Yes you guessed it – Italian again! I am gutted we didn’t stumble upon this restaurant earlier though, as you’d probably have found me there every night! The restaurant was packed full but the service was still really attentive and fast. And the food was FANTASTIC! Fresh pasta and delicious pizza’s that I’m salivating over as we type.. must get James to make some fresh pasta sometime soon! I would happily eat here forevermore – the menu was huge and so hard to choose from! I’d 100% recommend finding this restaurant whilst in Mykonos and enjoying the delicious fresh pasta!

Everywhere you look, it’s beautiful!

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Iceland ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Yes, that’s right.

The “beast of the east” hit the U.K. bringing with it snow like we haven’t seen for years (I’ve never seen snow like it in the almost 5 years we’ve lived in Somerset!) and of course, we head off to Iceland.. where there was only snow on the mountains or the empty, vast expanses of undisturbed countryside. We also had the most incredible, beautiful blue skied weather the entire time we were away. We were lucky!

We were extra lucky as well in that the day after our arrival was sunny, warm and there was NO icey wind! We had this day free (Northern Lights Tour being in the evening) and so walked for miles and miles exploring Reykjavik which we couldn’t have done if the wind had picked up and frozen us through (like it did many other days on tours!)

I also feel the need to mention that – my worries over communication barriers (due to being pregnant in case anything happened!) were completely stupid and unfounded. Icelanders speak better English than most English people.

Tap water is readily available pretty much everywhere as the water – obviously – is so pure and clean there. That was quite ideal for keeping costs down (that and the tip of taking out your own snacks (crisps, biscuits etc!) and the good old British way of sneaking a sandwich away at breakfast.. although when you hear the price of breakfast, at our hotel you won’t feel guilty!)

I booked the entire holiday through IcelandAir (selecting the “Northern Lights & Golden Circle Tour) for frankly not a bad price – with the exception of the Blue Lagoon experience as I could clearly see that as working out cheaper by booking directly with Blue Lagoon. Iceland is known for being expensive – and once you get there, it really is, but to be honest I thought the price of everything included for 5.5 days was quite reasonable.. it’s just when you get there you need to watch out! Tips below ๐Ÿ™ƒ

I’d also like to just quickly add that the most popular form of travel for holiday-makers is coach. All absolutely fine (if a little random at times; small mini bus to pick you up from hotels, then get onto a coach at the bus station, but coach drops you back at hotels…๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜‚) however we all know some people are just assholes ๐Ÿคฃ

So, as per, I’ll review by day/restaurant/trip/hotel. FYI we stayed in Reykjavik.

Iceland Air Hotel Marina

Our hotel was the only option we had when it came to booking our package. I was a bit annoyed as when I’d looked previously I’d had a choice of four + to book, but it turned out, this was a lucky only choice! The hotel is ideally situated for pretty much everything! Lots of great restaurants to be found opposite on the harbourside, and only a short walk from the main shopping street; Laugavegur, which you’ll find more great restaurants off of as well…

It was also pretty cool and quirky inside, and the bar and restaurant inside (which I’ll review below), although expensive, seemed to be quite the place to be on a Friday night!

Something we also thought was really cool and clever at this hotel, was the option to hang a “no room clean” card on your door handle. You’d then be credited back a 750ISK (roughly ยฃ5, so not a lot when you see the prices, but better than nothing and a good idea!) voucher to use within the hotel restaurant/bar. Presumably you can put these towards breakfast too but we stupidly didn’t collect our vouchers until the second to last day.. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ

Mumma and bump by open fire in the hotel reception

Iceland Air Hotel Marina Bar/Restaurant

We ate here on the evening we arrived – purely because thanks to the UK’s snowmageddon we’d had a super long day travelling (needlessly as Heathrow saw ZERO snow ๐Ÿ˜‚), I’d slept badly the night before, plus I’m pregnant so just ALWAYS tired apparently ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜‚. Wow. We spent ยฃ95 in a flash on two beers, one non alcoholic cocktail, a shared starter (calamari: average), a burger (James was happy but I thought it average) and a lamb dinner (again, average!!). Yep – Iceland prices had hit, hard! So although lively and popular with Icelanders – I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than using up your vouchers!

We also, stupidly, ate breakfast here most days. Stupidly because on days we didn’t have an early pick up – we could have gone elsewhere for half the price (literally) and a much better choice!! (See below when we visited Cafe Paris). Breakfast in the hotel was charged at 6,600ISK ๐Ÿ˜ณ yep, that’s almost ยฃ50 for two people for a cold buffet option!!! If you mentioned you wanted to make/take a sandwich out, they’d charge you another few thousand ISK.. so just slyly wrap in a napkin and whisk away discreetly!!

Icelandic Fish and Chips ๐Ÿฅ” (can’t get the website to work!)

A recommendation by several friends who’ve previously visited Iceland! And a good one! Not entirely traditional – you get an option of fresh fish (battered) caught that day, and, as is the norm for Iceland, the “chips”* were crunchy new potatoes – which I’m normally not a fan of, but these (I chose the rosemary ones) were DELICIOUS! *much like the rest of the world, “fries” are what the U.K. (correctly ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ) calls chips… All served on a bed of salad of your choice (I chose mango, I’ve never seen mango like it, but it tasted amazing!). We really enjoyed this meal which was much better than the hotel, and almost a full ยฃ50 cheaper for the same amount of food and drinks ๐Ÿ˜ณ!! Highly recommend!

Northern Lights Tour

I think I am only now mentioning the time of year we travelled – early March – and purely because I *think* this is a really great time to see the Northern Lights. We were lucky to be fascinated by them for several hours in a couple of different locations, and from what we can tell from following our tour guide on Facebook, March (this year at least!) generally seems to be a good time to see them. Husband took some particularly fantastic pictures (my fav is below) on his Samsung phone – but I will advise that iPhones just WILL NOT capture the Aurora Borealis. Don’t rely on an iPhone if you want your own pictures!

What we also thought was brilliant, was that (for our tour guide at least!) any pictures he took (including ones with us in them, see below!) he put on Facebook the next day for free. FREE! And makes a point in telling his guests that they have “absolute bragging rights” to those photos!! I KNOW! You’d normally be ripped off a good ยฃ20 or so for images taken whilst on a trip etc!!

Your package for Northern Lights/Golden Circle Tour when booked through IcelandAir also includes free entry into the Aurora Borealis tourist centre which is really good, informative and with a GREAT room displaying many pictures from past Northern Lights experiences, so make sure you stop by! (We also particularly loved the pin-map of where visitors were from!!)

Adding our pin to the U.K.!

Golden Circle Tour

Really good tour, and includes a lot (although some of it a little random!). Biggest downside for me was that, booking through IcelandAir it was automatically set for us the day after our Northern Lights Tour. It’s quite a long day (remember I am pregnant!), with an early start after a late night return from the Northern Lights! Had I thought about it/twigged/noticed when booking I’d have switched some days around so that I wasn’t utterly exhausted by the end of it!

Onto the tour.. now, the slightly random part of it is the first stop – which they go on and on about, mostly talking about horses and this horse farm.. (I was dipping in and out of consciousness because 1) tired and 2) never fail to nod off briefly from the movement of a “car” ๐Ÿ˜‚) only to get there and find.. 5 horses, but a HUGE tomato ๐Ÿ… farm… yeah, we were confused to.. presumably it’s a moneymaker as they sell produce from the farm (not just tomatoes ๐Ÿ˜‚, but chutney, passata, pickles/oils etc. They also had a fresh food part where you could buy tomato soup, which I’ll admit did smell amazing but was super crazy expensive (1,100ISK (almost ยฃ8) for a 500g jar of passata…!)

Onto the next stop – and my favourite of the day, the live Geysir, named Strokkur which erupted every few minutes and was fascinating to watch.. (sorry about my annoying voice.. we had stood in the same spot earlier and watched without filming.. or getting drenched!)

Next stop was Gulfoss Waterfall, which was stunning to look at. Sadly due to the weather we couldn’t walk quite as far up to it as you can on other occasions, but we got some good pictures. One thing I will say here is that the wind was insane and pure ice sheets. Get all of your windproof warm layers on for here – I couldn’t feel my thighs at one point with three pairs of tights on (none windproof as none fit over the bump!). My picture is from the top, you can normally walk further up to the waterfall from the bottom.

Final stop was to the Pingvellir National Park where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart from each other (source). Here you also take a short walk (if you want!) up Keriรฐ, a volcanic crater lake, with some further stunning views.

Hรถfnin Restaurant (Harbourside)

This one had us laughing. We liked the look of the menu so nipped here for dinner… James ordered the fish stew, and I ordered the vegetable lasagna (what did I say about carbs!!). We had to laugh because the waitress explained in detail the fish stew because apparently it is often not what people expect and so they’ve begun explaining it… what she didn’t explain was that the lasagne, although very yummy, was not lasagne, but ratatouille. We did laugh. On the flip side they had delicious bread and amazing butter (we think, having learnt from another restaurant, Skyr butter – I’m addicted!) and they even topped us up. I don’t think we’d return, but still far cheaper than the hotel!

Blue Lagoon

๐Ÿ˜ Information on their website states that the Blue Lagoon is perfectly safe for pregnant women.. from an additional Instagram stalk of the Blue Lagoon hashtag, I also saw another IVF-pregnant lady enjoying the Blue Lagoon a few weeks before we went out, at a few weeks less pregnant than I was. So I felt comfortable, even though the temperature is advertised as 37-40 degrees, like a hot tub which is not recommended for pregnant ladies.. as soon as I stepped in the water I knew it was fine. It was lovely and warm, and much like the sea there were some warmer spots – but I never felt uncomfortable or too hot. Probably because the air temperature your head is at is COLD โ˜ƒ๏ธ๐Ÿคฃ.

You HAVE to pre-book the Blue Lagoon online. Which is really simple to do. Only reason I didn’t book through Iceland Air is because as far as I could see I could get a better package (Premium Package) for less by booking direct with them. This also meant we had zero queues when we arrived with a bus load of other people – unexpected but very ideal!

I can only assume the pre-booking, alongside individual feelings of having had enough, is how they keep the Blue Lagoon from becoming overcrowded, because it didn’t feel overcrowded at any point – despite you not having a “get out” time, meaning really you could stay all day if you wanted! In all we spent about 1.5-2hours in the water. If you have the time, and can get a space, I found the lounger style deck chairs in the “relaxation area” super comfy and could easily have fallen asleep (a particularly loud snoring guy a few people down DID fall asleep which had a few of us in giggles ๐Ÿ˜‚)

Bumpy and Mumma keeping warm!

Lava Restaurant @ Blue Lagoon

๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ I added this reservation to our booking based purely on the menu once again – and wasn’t disappointed! The food was INCREDIBLE (pictured, my mussels starter with more yummy crispy new potatoes; basically a main!), the restaurant beautiful and the service really lovely and friendly (our waitress offered to go out of her way when she realised I was pregnant but wanted the mussels as they were cooked in beer). Once again they had delicious bread with yummy “healthy!” Skyr butter which I can’t get enough of and we are planning to try and make this weekend! I even had a cheeky glass of sparkling wine which came free with the booking because it was SO delicious!

Lava Tunnel Tour

Added this onto our trip as a bit of a random added extra. I didn’t think a glacier typed walk would be sensible when pregnant, so this kind of felt like the next best thing, and it was kind of cool! I can’t really say too much without giving away, but if you’ve got some spare time you want to fill, I wouldn’t change having done it. More info here (we did the standard tour!). However I will mention that there was a lot of phallus looking icicles ๐Ÿคฃ which also reminds me that Iceland seemed to have a bit of a thing about phallus’ as there was a whole Phallus museum on the main shopping street in Reykjavik (we didn’t visit!!)

Sรฆgreifinn

I just wanted to mention this restaurant which had been recommended but we didn’t make it to.. for a couple of reasons.. we left it until our last night.. faffed around despite being hungry and then headed over for 7.30pm.. only to find a note on the door saying they were shutting at 8pm that night.. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ there was only one couple in the queue in front of us, so we waited in the queue anyway but after ten or so mins hadn’t moved.. I was hungry (๐Ÿคฐ๐Ÿฝ) and frankly, didn’t feel like the fish that was on offer (baby LOVES carbs ๐Ÿ˜‚) so we headed to below mentioned burger joint!

However – like I said, his had been heavily recommended to us as – although looking like a little tin shack – having fresh fish, caught that day, on offer. I have to say – it certainly all looked super fresh and very yummy and had I not by this point been ravenous for carbs, we’d have definitely stayed and eaten!

Hamborgarabรบlla Tรณmasar (beside hotel)

Website not helpful at all.. but basically this is the decent kind of “fast food”. Freshly prepared burgers served with chips (fries) or even sweet potato chips! Lots of different options and sauces, and basically for someone who was just craving some “dirty” food – this happily appeased my ever-growing belly! I’m actually hungry again just thinking about it!! ๐Ÿ˜‹

Cafe Paris

Well, my biggest Iceland regret is not looking this up sooner thus enjoying better breakfasts for a better price here! We only visited on our last day but I’d highly recommend it for a cute venue, yummy menu (I needed to go back more days as there was several things I neeeeeded ๐Ÿคค!)

We’d both certainly recommend looking around for breakfasts rather than getting ripped off at your hotel if you don’t already have it included!

Lastly – although I am not a beer drinker at the best of times (ever), and obviously wasn’t drinking at all due to #IVFBabyOnBoard (!) apparently the Icelandic beer is GOOD.

As always, feel free to ask any questions!

x

The Seychelles

The final of our 3rd wedding anniversary holiday blogs – finally!!

I’ve held off this blog, because I wasn’t sure there was that much to say. We had a short but sweet time in the Seychelles, and it is exactly as you would imagine it to be – much like the Maldives and Bora Bora… Fiji & Hawaii (though we’ve not been to the last 2!) – warm, white sands, beautifully perfect aquamarine blue seas sparkling under the glistening sunshine. In essence – a typical idealistic “honeymoon” destination.

We’ve been to both The Maldives and Bora Bora and loved both (my heart is still in Bora Bora), but it’s funny how easily the mind can forget. When we saw those gorgeous white sands and blue seas in the Seychelles, we both said to each other it’s the whitest sand and bluest sea we’d ever seen – but, we both know that’s not true. The Maldives and Bora Bora are exactly like that.. in fact, some beautiful areas of Scotland are exactly like that too (though largely minus the 30 degree sunshine I so adore!!)

Happy place!Happy Place!

So, the Seychelles. We had just a short but sweet 4 days there, tagged on as the “hot, sunny, naked sunbathing (me!), relaxation” part of our holiday.. whilst we were so close (4 hour flight from SA).

Hotel

The Valmer Resort

My criteria – as always – is for a hotel where we can have a private pool villa, because, well, I don’t do tan lines….!! We selected The Valmer Resort purely because it was the cheapest… poor choice for me because I failed to do any research (there was only one pool villa in this resort so I was panic desperate to just book it!) into it until about two weeks before we flew out.. queue huge anxiety! Trip Advisor reviews were shocking, while booking.com reviews were ok… I’d say we met somewhere in the middle…

Pool Villa โ˜บ๏ธ

Service in general just wasn’t really a “thing” in this resort. We arrived really late in the evening due to flight times (& delays) and as it is seemingly a small, family owned/run resort, the place looked like it was shut up for the day – no chance of some room service food then! Throughout our stay we were never asked if things were ok or if we needed anything, but when it came to taking payment for our room bill, they were keen to get it sorted ASAP… still not asked if we had had a nice stay though!! And given we had roughly โ‚ฌ160 stolen from our room (presumably by the cleaner, accidentally left in husbands shorts pocket ๐Ÿ™„), it wasn’t all ideal!! We only ate dinner one night in the hotel (after a long day out on a trip) and it was overpriced, poor buffet food – if I’d have known how disappointing it would have been, we’d have gone out literally anywhere, or starved!!

Bedroom

We felt like we just seemed to be the wrong side of the island at this resort. We were up in the hills and it was often really windy and therefore not all that sunny – I didn’t come back very tanned, disappointingly! Frustratingly we could see in the distance gorgeous sunny beaches, and everywhere else seemed to be fine so it just literally seemed to be like a grey cloud following us around. All in all it was ok. Our room was nice, with a huge bath and lovely outdoor shower (although there were cockroaches spotted here as well as throughout the resort!!), and the private pool is always lovely to have, and the views went on for wonderful miles.. but would have been nice to have room service as an option! I’m not sure I’d hurry back..

Restaurants

Le Grande Maison

This restaurant was so lovely. I’d definitely recommend going here. When we went there was only us and three other tables booked so it was very quiet, which was a bit of a shame for the wonderful band that played there twice a week every week, but the location was a beautiful colonial style house.

La Reduit

We visited this restaurant solely based on tripadvisor reviews and recommendations – but I have to say we were several disappointed! It was supposed to be a traditional, Creole-cuisine restaurant… I’d say the best thing about it was watching all the geckos (I LOVE them!! ๐ŸฆŽ) and what they get up to! The food wasn’t all that great and was served with plain rice (I hate plain rice!) or “homemade” chips… the chips were homemade in the oven out of a McCain’s packet I’d say!

On the other hand – we were the only customers seemingly for the entire night, so it was really sweet of them to even bother opening for us!

TripsRobinson Crusoe Island Adventure As we only had a few days in the Seychelles, we didn’t have much time to explore or go on trips, so we had to pick whichever looked like it covered the most – and although quite a long day, this trip most certainly did!

We covered a few islands and lots of snorkelling, as well as getting to Curieuse Island which is the home of giant land tortoise’s which is one of my most favourite things EVER! They are amazing – you get to feed them and pet them as they room freely around the island – they LOVE to have their necks tickled which cracked me up! I would really recommend this trip for anyone in the Seychelles. We had lunch on board our catamaran too which was also lovely (much nicer traditional Creole food than La Reduit!!)

Best selfie ever! Finally – we [for the first time!] flew economy with Emirates, om our journey home – which, from the Seychelles to Dubai in particular (just 4.5 hour flight) I would recommend.. the flight was empty and if we had wanted to, we could have all had an entire 3/4 seats ourselves! We walked through our “usual” (โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‚) business class on the way to our seats and there was literally 2 people in there! Thankfully, we have high enough air mile accreditation with Emirates we could still relax and freshen up with a shower in the lush lounges on our stopover in Dubai!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ so save yourself some ๐Ÿ’ธ and fly economy from there ๐Ÿ™ƒ

xx

Safari; Pumba Private Game Reserve ๏ปฟ

Safari selfie!
Well well well… who the heck knew it was so cold in Africa?! My top tip for anyone travelling to South Africa would be to make sure you pack layers! I almost didn’t, but thanks to a friend who was out in Cape Town a few days before us – when the weather was cloudy and windy – I last minute threw in my mac and some leggings to the suitcase and I am SO glad I did – or I’d have been freezing on safari in shorts!! Fortunately, when it’s super cold they give you hot water bottles and fleece lined ponchos on the game drives.. (They also put hot water bottles in bed at turn down time, and left short little bedtime stories!! – LUSH ๐Ÿ˜ I slept SO well on Safari what with all the cosyness and big beautiful comfy bed and thick heavy duvet!)

BFG++++ sized poncho?!

We had chosen (with the aid of our travel agent) Pumba Private Game Reserve for safari and I am SO glad we did. What an incredible place. It is considered one of the “smaller” game reserves at only 6,500 hectares.. ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ˜‚ but we absolutely couldn’t (really*) fault it… * the “really” being there was a few odd elements of disorganisation but they were more just weird rather than an issue of any sorts. We loved it at Pumba and will definitely be back… now please?!

Beautiful unknown flower found at Pumba Water Lodges

There are two options of accommodation at Pumba – the water lodges and bush lodges. We stayed at water lodge which meant we looked out over a big watering hole were there were hippo’s. Obviously, because of where we stayed I would say this was the best lodge, but really I don’t think there is any difference between the two. Bush lodge, as per the name, is surrounded by bush… Each lodge seemed to be huge, all with log burners, beautiful big, cosy beds, huge showers and baths and massive patio’s with plunge pools. It was amazing and I didn’t want to leave our little home! And one of the things we loved the most – not a television in sight, anywhere. It meant  we chatted and had drinks and a laugh with the other guests there at the same time us as rather than dozing off at night to random foreign tv. Bliss!

Pano of our room. Ensuite off to the left.

Depending what activities you get yourselves involved in between game drives, you can visit the other lodges. You can have lunch or dinner at whichever lodge you aren’t staying at if you want, but I imagine they’re pretty similar. There are loads of extra curricular activities to get involved with if you like. We had a good go at archery (loved it!)

โ€‹โ€‹

2020 Olympics here I [don’t] come.. ๐Ÿน

…And I even ate a termite at one point!!

Termite!

There seemed to be no rhyme or reason (we suspected when sightings were low ๐Ÿ˜ข) but on a couple of occasions we had sundowner cocktails and nibbles, or morning warmers (hot chocolate with Amurula ๐Ÿคค) which was a nice little way to chat and make friends with not only our jeep “full” (we mostly only had one other couple.. and following on from Cape Town blog, of course they were Irish ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜…) but also whoever else we pulled up next to. Our jeep, was Team Ingwe ๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ˜Š We had a brilliant Ranger, Daniel who was a laugh, taught us some Afrikaans and would crack us up with things like “this warthog died naturally – he was naturally caught and eaten by the lions.” ๐Ÿคฃ

Team Ingwe! ๐Ÿ†
Sundowners ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฅ‚๐Ÿพ๐Ÿน๐Ÿฅƒ
At Pumba, they have the “Big 5” so if you’re lucky, you’ll see them all. We got the “Big 4” as the leopards didn’t fancy playing game – and hadn’t been seen for 2.5 weeks or so prior to our arrival! We were sad not to see one, but as James always says, you’ve got to leave something to come back for (as if I needed an excuse for more Safari!)

Nevertheless, I spent the few days we had on Safari having an incredible time, seeing and falling in love with ALL the animals and amusing myself with some great animal selfies {see below}…! (We did see Cheetah ๐Ÿ† too but not close enough for a selfie! ๐Ÿ˜‚)

I’m just gonna finish up with a super emotional little story.. When we arrived at Pumba, sadly an elephant had passed away. Conveniently however, the elephant had done so in a ditch right by one of the main drive routes which meant we got to see the lion’s waiting for the skin to soften to eat said elephant, super close. On our last day though, another lone (male) elephant stumbled upon the dead elephant and we got to see him spend a few minutes saying his goodbyes – trunk touching the dead elephant, just like a human might touch a coffin or a gravestone. SO EMOTIONAL – definitely my spirit animal!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ

Monkey Selfie! ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
Elephant selfie! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
Rhinoceros selfie! ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
Impala selfie! ๐ŸฆŒ๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
Giraffe selfie! (๐Ÿ˜ฉ) ๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
(Female) white lion selfie! ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿคณ๐Ÿฝ
Millicent Millipede ๐Ÿ˜

We will definitely be back ๐Ÿ˜ x

Cape Town – Travel Blogging.. ๏ปฟ

Emirates Business Class lounge ๐Ÿ˜

I know people think I am completely insane forking out for business class… but for long haul/long haul night flights; it is entirely worth it. Also for the [far too short] complimentary 15 minute massage I just had at the lounge in Cape Town ๐Ÿ˜. I will happily eat the most basic of supermarket spaghetti hoops (not a beans fan!!) for a year in order to pay for this. Ever since our honeymoon, I’ve swelled up massively when flying long haul in economy, and for a flat bed and some much needed sleep (prior to this trip in particular I hadn’t slept properly for 6 weeks.. I was beyond exhausted and strongly suspect my fainting and heart palpitations where a result of this..) – anything over 7/8 hours: put me in business + please and thank you..!!

Furthermore – when we finally landed in Capetown, and got to our hotel by 7.20pm, we were mostly so refreshed that we were able to have a quick hop-in-hop-out shower and head straight out for 8pm dinner. Winner.

One thing we did notice in South Africa, without prejudice, was the insane amounts of Irish people also on holiday out there..! I am pretty well travelled, but I have never in my life come into contact with SO many Irish people!! Can anyone enlighten us as to why?! I know this sounds an odd thing to say but James and I were both just so surprised! I do love the Irish accent though – so was pretty pleased ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ˜‚.

As always with my travel blogs, I’m splitting up for (hopeful) easy reading:

Hotel – Southern Sun: The Cullinan

The Cullinan pool ๐Ÿ˜

Couldn’t recommend this hotel more! Fairly sure it was some kind of crazy bargain at ยฃ80p/n or whatnot, decent (albeit standard) buffet style breakfast included. There’s also a super cute pool area, and a coffee bar come cafe and restaurant, that, while we didn’t eat in either (no time!), looked really nice. The Cullinan is 4* rated, fairly central and easy to find from the V&A/waterfront. You can happily and safely walk about to and from here during the day. We chose to walk to and from dinner a couple of times – and while we were safe, we were approached by the odd nutter begging for money who wouldn’t leave us alone… it’s a case of standing your ground, and like I said, fortunately the hotel wasn’t too far away!! Taxi’s, however, are super cheap.. I just often felt so tubby (standard, also true!!) I needed to walk as much as possible!

Southern Sun The Cullinan ๐Ÿ’–

Dinner and Drinks

Nobu – One and Only Hotel

๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ’ฃ Photobombed by the big guy at Nobu

Nobu seems to be not very well known in Capetown – in all my searchings of places to eat, this didn’t crop up once. It was only because a friend went out to Cape Town a week before us that I heard about it. He recommended it as being a fraction of the price of London (/any other) but just as stunning – and it was! 

Nobu Cape Town

Nobu Cape Town is located within the One and Only Hotel. It was about 1.5 miles from our hotel – but easy to find once we had our bearings!

Incredible salmon at Nobu

The food was out of his world. I have never had [uncooked] salmon like it. Everything we ordered was delicious and we were even presented with an extra free pudding for our anniversary – in which the sorbet was mouth wateringly refreshing! I could do with some now as I write this from the warmth of the Seychelles!!

Melting molten chocolate dessert at Nobu ๐Ÿคค
Free anniversary desert at Nobu! Give me that sorbet please!
 

Ginja – Waterfront Alfred Mall side

We stopped at Ginja [which I believe is also part of a hotel above] for a quick lunch before our Robben Island tour. We judged it by its cover as per usual, but weren’t disappointed! I had a delicious pear, beetroot, raspberry and lemon juice alongside an absolutely scrumptious musu pork wrap, whilst James had an equally nice open ceaser salad sandwich.

Ginja

The Codfather – Camps Bay

I’ve hyperlinked the name to this restaurant so you can click and book… now! It was so delicious it is an absolute must visit! 

James is dubbing this the world’s most under-rated restaurant… I think he *could* be right – but don’t tell him!

Oh my gosh I just don’t know where to start! I had spent an age on google finding the best recommended restaurants for South Africa based on trip advisor, lonely planet and the guardian suggestions. There were two in Camps Bay I was interested in – and thankfully, the second kept getting emails bounced back; so I couldn’t make the booking. Their loss; and our gain was huge – The Codfather was incredible! My expectations – despite placings and high ratings on aforementioned review sites – weren’t huge… likely due to the fact there is a fish and chippy somewhere back home with the same name… but this couldn’t be further removed from the greasy backdrop of your average chip shop.

We started our dinner with shared fresh grilled calamari to start. This was accompanied by 4 dipping sauces; garlic butter, lemon butter, sweet chilli and “hot” chilli… we loved them all! And the calamari was some of the best we have both ever tasted (and I LOVE fresh squid!)

Calamari and sauces of dreams at The Codfather ๐Ÿคค

Next up – you head over to the “fish market”. Your waiter talks you through what’s on offer of the day. You pick what you want and what sized cuts you’d like, you are then given prices (which are beyond crazy cheap) – if you’re not happy, {you can} put things back and pick up, and if you are happy, your choices go to the grill. The waiters are honest and suggest the right amounts for you – your fish then also comes with Chips, rice and Asian style veg. And you get given fresh dipping sauces. We tried a couple of fish we hadn’t tried before – butterfish and king fish included – and weren’t disappointed. 

The fish market at The Codfather ๐Ÿ ๐ŸŸ๐Ÿฆ‘๐Ÿ™๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿฆ‚
Main is served at The Codfather! ๐Ÿคค
 

As necessary, old sweet tooth chunky chubber here (๐Ÿท) finished up with a brownie and ice cream – James wasn’t hungry so wouldn’t share so it’s no wonder I’m looking so tubby already. 

Codfather pudding ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿฆ

Not only was the food incredible – but the service was too. Our waiter and the other waiting staff were friendly and helpful – our waiter even went above and beyond to ensure we got into a safe taxi home. We cannot encourage you to visit this restaurant enough. Go, now, go!!

Happy chubby belly after The Codfather

Paranga – Camps Bay

Paranga ๐Ÿ˜

We popped here prior to The Codfather for some seafront sunset “sundowner” drinks. It looked pretty and was right across the road from the beach so was ideal for a gorgeous sunset before wandering up to The Codfather for dinner.

Sunset from Paranga
Sundowners at Paranga

Pigalle – Somerset Square

I booked Pigalle as it had come up on my searches of “best South African restaurants”… it was nice, and I had Springbok which tasted incredible, but it wouldn’t be my first place to head back to. I was expecting more of an African feel to the place with its live music, but it didn’t feel it.. if anything the place felt a bit confused. I didn’t go to either but I think Gold/Marco’s African Place was more what I was looking for in terms of an African vibe. Pigalle was good food though, and a nice evening nonetheless, and the staff/service was wonderful.

Entrance to Pigalle
Definitely chubbier! Pigalle, Somerset Square
   
Activities/Tours

I would urge you all to book both Table Mountain and the Robben Island trips for as soon as possible after you have arrived – both of these are susceptible to cancellations due to weather – if it is too windy ferries will not depart to the island (just days before we arrived there was an incident where one started sinking!) and wind as well as cloud affects Table Mountain cable cars (plus, not much point hiking if the cloud is covering the view!)

Stunning Table Mountain views (of Camps Bay)

Robben Island and the Walk to Freedom – [booked via Ilios Travel]

Now… I had no expectations of this tour.. and yet still I feel disappointed.. I think James was a bit too. I’m not really sure what it is we felt we were disappointed about, but we just were.

“Freedom cannot be manacled” – arrival at Robben Island

Our tour was pre-booked with our travel agent in the U.K., so done through Ilios Travel in Cape Town. We were picked up early from our hotel for a full day trip with several other couples (including ALL the Irish ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚) – the morning including visiting  Bo-Kaap, the Langa Township and finding out more about District 6 and the apartheid. This was interesting and included a stop at a little arts/crafting centre which takes on apprentices every year to help aid professions. I bought a couple of things here and wanted a little more, but time (As usual ๐Ÿ™„!) Meant the bus nearly left without me! 

Fun, bright Bo-Kaap!

We then had a little time to have some lunch before our boat to Robben Island… annoyingly we found out just after lunch that our trip to Robben Island had been cancelled due to choppy seas… 1 in 3 apparently get cancelled due to the weather, etc, hence why it’s best to get booked in asap! Ours was rearranged for the next day where thankfully the weather was beautiful! You wouldn’t perhaps expect Africa to be on top of health and safety like that, but the week before we arrived there was a fairly serious incident with a boat going out and nearly sinking due to the weather… so understandable that they do!! 

Mandela’s cell

Anyway, I guess all in all we don’t know what we were disappointed with, and I still felt it was quite a big “must do” typed thing. I’d still do it again; for that reason. I think perhaps because there is A LOT of things to read and just not enough time.. could perhaps do with one of those audio guides. On the flip side, the guide we had around the prison was actually an ex-prisoner! Not sure (other than the fact he was black?!) why he was imprisoned though.. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜‚ but – like hearing stories about 9/11 first hand – it isn’t going to be forever you get first hand accounts..

You can just make out Table Mountain from inside the prison at Robben Island

Table Mountain

I’m not sure what’s true or what’s right and what’s not, but we had been advised it isn’t safe to walk up Table Mountain due to some violent muggings.. but we saw plenty of people hiking up and making it to the top just fine, so, your choice I guess!! 

Like I said, you need to try and get this booked in for as soon as possible otherwise the weather could mean you don’t get a chance! There is wifi all over the place so you can actually buy tickets for the cable car online whilst in the queue saying you already have tickets.. this is what we did – it apparantly saves at least 45 minutes wait!

At the top of Table Mountain with incredible views! โ›ฐ

Once you make it to the top – cable car or hiking, you are free to do whatever you want, within reason! You can sit on the edge all the way round, you can walk all over, there is wifi again at the top, as well as a cafe, and of course a little gift shop! People seem to be amazed – but we didn’t see any of the wildlife that you are supposedly highly likely to see; in sad we didn’t get to see the monkeys!! The views are incredible, and it is incredibly peaceful and serene at the top.

โ€‹โ€‹
Lions Head

Lions Head is right next to Table Mountain and smaller, easier [roughly a 3 hour round trip] and supposedly safer to walk up.. we were going to.. but long story short, I stupidly trusted (showing my true self doubt which still exists ๐Ÿ˜”) my directionally challenged husband and we ended up on a 3 hour + walk.. nowhere near Lions Head… as he always says, got to leave something to come back for… ๐Ÿ™„!! I would really like to do it one day, for the 360 degree views and the walk if nothing else! 

Lions Head from Table Mountain – as you can see much easier to walk up!

I will just finish up here by saying that we did not have anywhere near enough time in Cape Town. Our holiday was cut short by having two weddings either side in the UK, so we will definitely be back to enjoy more of this incredible city! I think if you are planning a one time only trip, a week or so should be enough time – providing the weather isn’t so awful you don’t manage to do Table Mountain or Robben Island!
Safari blog up and coming… x

The best medicine ๐Ÿ’Š๐Ÿ’–

It is amazing how your mind can so easily “forget” and lie to you about how being surrounded by friends and family and love is really, truly, the best medicine. How connecting and engaging with others creates bonds and friendships, even seemingly in strangers. Last weekend, was my “secret surprise birthday weekend away” in the start of the (month long!!) “celebrations” of my turning 30. I had left the entire thing up to James to organise – because frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. I’ve dreaded birthdays for a fair few years now. Getting older isn’t cool with me. I’m like Peter Pan, except I’m not forever young, I just want/need to be. Getting older gets worse with the less I feel I achieve/the more I don’t have children, because of stupid numbers I stupidly set myself stupid years ago. So, obviously, this weekend – despite having been in the diary for months – unfortunately came upon us at quite literally one of the worst times (๐Ÿ˜”) possible. I had been so hopeful that we would finally be pregnant that it all of a sudden made the world 100 million times worse when I wasn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to face anything. I really didn’t want to go.
I cried the entire journey to our surprise location. At one point my husband asked me if I “wanted to do this”. I didn’t. I really didn’t. It took absolutely everything within me to answer with a nod and not the honest no; I want to go home, curl up into a ball in our bed and keep crying, alone. I didn’t know for sure but I had suspicions friends were involved and I didn’t feel like I could face anyone still. After all, I’d spent 2 days at the start of that week ignoring absolutely everyone, the rest of the week still avoiding more local friends and wondering when I’d ever feel like I could face people [friends] properly again. I had asked him a few days before, tears still pouring down my soaked face if any babies were involved in the weekend.. this included anyone pregnant or any children but I couldn’t bring myself to say those words, I couldn’t choke them out – my speech was the bare minimum I could get away with to string a sentence together. I was worried, when we pulled off the M5 onto the M4 towards Wales that my godchildren (who I knew to be on holiday in Pembrokeshire) would be there – whom I love dearly but I didn’t feel like I could face, especially when I couldn’t stop the tears.

When we pulled up the only car I instantly recognised was my brothers, but I knew there were others and the tears came again. I couldn’t walk into the cottage first, I made Rufus and James lead the way – me trailing behind clutching James’ hand like a lost child. When we walked into the kitchen and my friends jumped out yelling “surprise!” I burst into more tears and cowered into James… I am sure this was exactly the reaction my friends, some of who had spent the best part of 6 hours travelling ~ for me ~ had hoped for…!! Not! Sorry guys. I just felt super heightened in terms of anxiety. 

I don’t know if it was because I’d actually bothered taking my mild dosed citalopram for two days in a row rather than the erratic form I had been taking it in the months previously. I remember when I first took it all those months ago, feeling a difference far quicker than I thought possible – but this could also have been aided by the decent weather, marathon, therapy, IUI progress (๐Ÿ™„ irony), holidays, friends etc. I wouldn’t have believed it again having such a rapid affect until I properly read Deborah Orr‘s article last week of her heightened levels of disassociation almost immediately after beginning citalopram.
I have noticed myself on occasion – particularly looking back now – clinging to James like some sort of leach, unable to interact, engage or begin new friendships without him for support. I suspect it’s why a lot of his (old) “friends” don’t like me – anxiety winning yet again in making me socially unable to engage. Somehow, sometimes though I do manage on my own? I can certainly think of a few friends I have made in Somerset on my own.. but I appear to have developed a strong sense of separation anxiety to James.. and Rufus.. and we have the cheek to laugh at Rufus having separation anxiety – quite literally gets that one from his Mumma… as though I’ve passed it on within the air that we breathe and share.
A tangent – after all the tears, eventually followed by a lot of wonderful, supportive hugs from my [initially shocked!] friends I found myself quickly settling down. Tears stopping, an extent of happiness resuming within me. Despite my mind wanting to hide away from the world, what I really needed was exactly what I got – to be surrounded by loved ones, to be distracted and to have fun. 
It’s funny how easily you can “forget” this is what you need. How easy it is to withdraw and isolate yourself – only resulting in making you feel worse. In writing this, it reminds me of another friends 30th earlier in the year.. I hope she doesn’t mind me (and I think this is the second time I’ve done this to her!) referencing her – but she wasn’t in a good place at all. She had overdosed a few days prior to the weekend all her friends were due to descend for celebrations, and I remember thinking then – exactly what she needed was everyone around her to perk her up and show in plain sight how much she was – is – loved and needed. And yet I couldn’t see that for myself just last week. I couldn’t allow myself to have the support and love and care, the fun and distraction of friends and family to get me through how low I truly felt. And that is precisely what mental illness does to you. It shuts you down and locks you within yourself to make you feel dark and alone. And it is so, so impossible to pull yourself out of it.. so for those of you that have friends struggling – surprise them. Don’t stop loving and caring and being supportive and funny – even if it is endless funny texts that go seemingly ignored. Be prepared for melt downs and tears, for pain and for hopelessness; but your love does, eventually, make that difference.
Thank you, friends and family xx (ps. Pink glitter lipstick solves everything ๐Ÿ’„๐Ÿ’‹)

New York ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Have been meaning to post this amongst my blog for ages. Using this current miserable weather ๐ŸŒงsituation to catch up on everything I have been avoiding whilst it was lovely and sunny โ˜€๏ธ (and whilst I was feeling depressed/unmotivated/tired etc during the miserable winter months…) SO… New York ๐Ÿ—ฝ. What can I say? There is not enough time; even when you think there is. There is never enough time; as per one of my biggest, most longstanding, impossible to get over; anxieties. I did however, see a wonderful verse from (American) poet Henry Van Dyke (in the 9/11 tribute centre) which perfectly sums up/helps(ish) my anxiety; 
“Time is/too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice; but for those who love, time is not.”

Christmas in New York ๐Ÿ’–

(A reminder, if we ever needed it; to live in the moment; definitely something I witnessed in New York, whilst I took some (lots, as per!) photos, hundreds of people were constantly filming and watching through a lens/watching later, that which they could have physically lived.. to me, photos help me (and my Dory ๐Ÿ  memory) to remember, I look back at some, print some for our photo wall… but do I re-watch over and over videos that I should/would/did just watch in real life at the time? No. Wedding DVD; yes (though not enough!!). Walking around New York/snow falling at the Empire State.. no.. a classic for me, was people taking photos/videoing the time lapse of the view from the Empire State at night.. that was on constant replay whilst in the queue to go back down the Empire State… if you didn’t just take those photos of YOUR experience whilst AT THE TOP.. then I’m seriously worried for you..!!
We walked between 9.3-13.7 miles a day ๐ŸŽ’. We met some lovely chatty (American) people who JUST LOVE the British accent. We dealt with crazy amounts of people. Everywhere. Some just pure idiotic. We’ve decided that unless you’d pre-booked that far in advance (and that’s unlikely/impossible) then taking a young child {in pushchair} on holiday to New York, other than that of one still small enough to be being carried around in a papoose is a totally, completely, utterly ignorant/irresponsible thing to do. Pushchairs/prams/buggies, whatever you want to call them, in central New York are just a disaster; unless you live there with kids: just don’t. And for the love of god, people, use the WiFi – if you aren’t using data – when it’s available. Map out your routes, screenshot it, seriously; New York is a GRID SYSTEM. It is probably the easiest city in the world to navigate ๐Ÿ—บ. Even my navigational/directionally retarded husband could (mostly!) figure it out; DO NOT JUST COME TO A COMPLETE STANDSTILL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET BECAUSE YOU ARE CONFUSED/LOST.. stand aside!! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE CO-EXISTING ALONGSIDE YOU, you are NOT alone in this world. Another great (hilarious, but sadly true) quote from one of the Rockefeller attendants was; “this is your world, I’m just in it trying to help”….!

Other than that, even given my husband is a self-confessed country bumpkin who didn’t even “visit London until I was in my (late) teens!!” We LOVE New York. I thought I had a soft spot for (SE) Asia? I love New York. I really do.
Few other tips for anyone who has never been and is going to/wants them..
Subway๐Ÿš‡

Didn’t use it. I’ve heard before of even New Yorkers finding it difficult to understand how to use, despite New York being an amazingly simple grid system. So, I can’t help. Plus, I went to New York with the worry that I couldn’t afford to gain any weight-but I’m still going to try ALL the food… so all walking was a bonus calorie burner for me (albeit nowhere near ENOUGH of a calorie burner!) 
Crowne Plaza Times Square

Decent hotel. Bit dated. Every time we ran the hot water in the sink it absolutely stank of sewage (despite being 30 floors up). Shower took far too long for America to heat up (I’d expect that in Bali perhaps, but having been there and not experienced that, I certainly wouldn’t expect it in NYC!!), toilet didn’t flush properly unless you pressed and held the handle down (even for literally just a wee!!) On our last afternoon we noticed we could hear the wind howling in from somewhere on the corridor, this continued into the night.. also slightly concerned that, unlike other hotels where they stipulate where to put towels etc if you do/do not want changing to “help the environment”, this was non existent, suggesting they were changed unnecessarily every day?! I assume this as the cups left in the bathroom which we used every day for teeth cleaning/water at night were then chucked out and we were given new ones.. wrapped in cellophane/plastic…!! Lifts also seemed crazy slow?! However, our Uber did manage to drop us right at the door, check in was quick and friendly and we were given (extra) drinks vouchers. WiFi mostly worked ok.. we also had a “back” room (3016 – aka not facing Times Square) which, apart from the wind howl on the last night, was reasonably quiet. Some disturbance from other ignorantly loud guests/morning of our last day I was woken several times by what I can only assume was someone’s old school 90’s style alarm (didn’t appear to have one in our room so presumably not hotel provided), which scared me for a few seconds when assuming it was a fire alarm.. however, from being in the Times Square-facing hallway and hearing nothing from Times Square, I would assume the glazing/building is strong enough to block the noise and for you to still get a decent night sleep…

DO NOT book it based solely on the fact there is an (indoor) swimming pool (particularly in winter!!?! But in Summer I would be tempted with an outdoor rooftop pool..!). If you’ve not used the subway ๐Ÿš‡, not got bogged down in yellow cab ๐Ÿš• traffic nightmare, and walked ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿฝeverywhere; you won’t use it. When you do go to use it, they won’t let you if they deem it “full” (even if you can see from your room how empty it is) or if you don’t have a swimming cap.. (I had washed my hair the day before and wasn’t getting it wet – thus needing to wash – whilst swimming, but still I wasn’t allowed.. plus, I haven’t worn one of those pull-your-hair-out vile rubber swimming caps since I was about 13 years old, I sure as hell ain’t planning to wear one again now!!) book a cheaper hotel/nicer hotel for the same price if not less. Use booking.com, look for decent WiFi/decent sized comfy beds (especially if you have a +6ft partner)/good location as that’s most important/useful for us these days.
Bar Americain

Overall, we liked this, although slightly random. Really easily located from above mentioned Crowne Plaza/Times Square. Kir Royale mostly tasted like black currant (we think our yank friends don’t really “get” champagne/prosecco). Rosemary Bee’s Knees is the most rosemary thing I have EVER tasted.. and I like Rosemary.. steaks however, are massively overpriced.. they literally come with nothing (so steak + side(s)!!) and if you don’t like “blackened/charcoal) then just don’t go there.. I ordered the filet mignon, and whilst it came medium rare as requested; the outside was blackened/char-coaled which I don’t particularly enjoy.. the creamed kale was delicious, and we quite liked the smashed potatoes with goats cheese – but the fries LOOKED amazing..! If I went back, I’d join the husband on the “normal”, “entrees” menu part, where everything is sub 35 dollars.. it did all look amazing.. I just pretty much got talked into the steak (P.S. the “steak sauce” is waaaay too strong on the mustard, so if you do go for it, go easy, unless you have a cold you want clearing out!!)

Husband had the buttermilk fried chicken (because he’s addicted) – so if you like battered chicken + biscuit (savoury scone), it was good.. โœ…

Bar Americain

Black Tap ๐Ÿ–ค

Freakshakes. Semi worth the wait.. we got a bit lucky. We just did as everyone else and waited in the queue. We had been waiting about an hour when someone came out checking the kinds of numbers of groups in the queue. The girl almost missed us, thinking we were with the girls in front – so I piped up that we were a party of two.. thank goodness – she asked us if we would be happy sitting at the bar, we said of course, and she took us straight in.. the bar was empty bar two other girls at that point, so we sat pretty much where we wanted and had plenty of space.. the freakshakes were insane.. and good.. I’d recommend the peanut butter one if you like PB.. it comes with the most crazy stuff.. M&M’s stuck to the glass, a caramel chew stick, Reese’s PB cups, etc.. nom. We also had burgers each. Sweet potato fries were good although a little cold when they arrived (I think the server had wondered around a while looking for us; bad planning Black Tap for not knowing exactly where she needed to go?!) chicken burger was better than the burger I had (The Californian), however, both husband and I prefer chicken burgers to anything else (the Californian is turkey, I picked it for the avocado & “sauce” (mayo?!) however I think they will “custom make”/switch in/out to an extent.. freakshake is what it is all about but after queuing so long you may as well eat properly/you’ll probably want to! We actually are our meal and drank our freakshakes, and got back out of Black Tap before the girls in front of us even got in.. they probably still had another hours wait… so definitely worth sitting at the bar!!

Freakshakes. Always Freakshakes.

Cronuts 

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring Street appears to have patented these… this is a classic example of DO YOUR RESEARCH before you travel.. we had literally walked past this bakery early in the morning days before (to get to Battery Park for Statue of Liberty).. so back that way we went.. we certainly walked for (some!!) of our food!!!

Husband is adamant if these were readily available in supermarkets then you wouldn’t even look at them.. and he’s probably right, but he’s been right a lot lately so I can’t give him that credit – plus, as a female, I go through mental cravings. Sometimes I NEED a five pack of Sainsbury’s jam doughnuts (Sainsbury’s (outside Krispy Kreme) are the best, don’t even think about giving me anything else!) so I think there are occasions where I could NEED 5 cronuts (as it turns out, I had three…๐Ÿฅ๐Ÿฉ). DA Bakery (lazy typer) does a different flavour every month, so, providing I wasn’t going back in December next year where flavour COULD be the same (standard American Christmas, peppermint (Americans always seem to LOVE peppermint?!) with cherry jam).. we both, plus (overhearing) couple next to us in the Bakery thought the peppermint was too much/didn’t work, but fortunately, the peppermint was just icing, so you could peel it off; where, it somehow tasted less pepperminty. On occasion, I would decide I needed a bit of the peppermint again in the same mouthful… so it was a bit of a love-hate relationship.. I’d queue again for a different flavour (FYI we got to the queue just before 7am as recommended by another blog, where we were then 3rd and 4th in line) but not for the same flavour.. but if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I still would… it’s an unlikely opportunity to try something and I LOVE/LIVE to try. Also, advice is to consume the cronut within 6-8 hours. We bought the max (4; 2 per person) but as husband didn’t enjoy it, I got his 2nd, so I ended up eating one for breakfast the next day (+24 hours later) and it tasted amaze. Un-refrigerated (but carried around for hours in the pouring rain before being left in room temperature hotel room).. so they can keep that long at least.

Also – don’t be tempted by buying EVERYTHING else in the bakery like Miss Piggy ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฝ over here… I am SO greedy and really only the Cronut’s are worth it… for me anyway.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cronuts

Sarabeth’s (Central South Park, but there are a few)

Brunch. Go. Always busy. Always worth it. Almond French Toast of dreams!

Central Park dreaming ๐Ÿ’•

See a show on Broadway (Lion King๐Ÿฆ)/Central Park/General Shopping (especially at Christmas)

You can’t really go to New York and NOT do these things…. pointless..! I was gutted I couldn’t run around any of Central Park due to injury.. next time!! Also, we came across cute and quirky Broadway Market in Lower Manhattan, off Broadway [obvs!] (not too far away from Dominique Ansel Bakery..!!) which is definitely worth a browse.

Broadway Market

Chelsea Market/The High Line

Chances are you can walk from wherever your hotel is, along the high line to Chelsea Market. Both are worth it. The highline is a beautifully done “up” with greenery, art, pop-up stalls, etc. ex railway line. Chelsea Market is just cute with some quirky shops/restaurants/lobster rolls (the “thing”, apparently!)

The High Line (promise I’m not the naked sunbather this time!)
Beautiful Chelsea Market (I love a fairy light ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿฆ„.. & flowers ๐ŸŒบ!!)
Rockefeller Christmas Tree ๐ŸŽ„

Rockefeller/Top of the Rock

I had bought the ticket price of this as part of our “New York Explorer Pass” via attractions direct. (Use Quidco, if not already signed up, sign up here…! http://www.quidco.com/user/2874440/2414459/) I had assumed (correctly) it would be a case of “swap/scan explorer pass in exchange for ticket at particular time”… so keep a rough eye on the weather. We were exhausted and when we “swapped” our explorer passes at 3/4pm one day, the next availability that day was after 9(pm) and as 30-ish year olds, we didn’t want that late (we generally were up at 5/6am!) so we booked sunset the next day, knowing we also had the Empire State Building to do as part of said Explorer Pass..

So, the weather the next day turned out to be HIDEOUS.. it rained all day.. until sunset.. we caught some of the sunset at the top, but when we got down to ground and started walking around again, we found the most beautiful skies (see below) which could only have been utterly stunning from top of the rock.. (check the weather, and then) book sunset, and book it as soon as possible when you arrive in New York if you have an explorer pass.. you’ll see why when you scroll down to Empire State info!

Top of the Rock

Beautiful sunset skies just as we got to the bottom of the Rockefeller… wait!!

Empire State Building

Beware. Once again, we had this as part of our “New York Explorer Pass” but, what we hadn’t realised, is that you didn’t book this for a specific time. You can exchange your “New York explorer pass”/buy a ticket whenever you like, but, it isn’t set for a specific time. So you can queue up, buy, then come back, queue again and then view… but you will always wait in the queue… so, for example, we “queued up” (no queue) to exchange our tickets when it was bucketing it down with rain. They stamped our passes then with “no view” in case we decided to go up when we “bought” (exchanged) so we couldn’t claim a refund for lack of view (whilst walking through the queue line, every attendant was saying “no view”)… we didn’t realise when we got to ticket purchasing desk that it wouldn’t be stamped with the set time for the next day like we had planned (and like top of the rock), so we had to go through the same process (including security!) the next day (where the queue was then a lot bigger!)… you CAN buy an “express pass” either in advance, or on the day, or even upgrade on the day.. but I would say it wasn’t worth it. When we were in the queue (with tickets) “on the day”, even when we had gone through some of the queue, all attendants were saying 2-2.5 hours.. we were up and back out again within that “2 hour” time frame.. we think they say it to get you to pay the extra $31pp for the “express pass” for no reason.. we saw people at the top that had paid for “express” tickets.. whilst we think they were letting far too many people up at once/it was crazy busy, it wasn’t worth paying the extra for the “express pass” just get in the queue early enough; you can stay up as long as you want/can be bothered once you get there (as at 2016!) so, if you want sunset in winter, I’d get in the queue about 1.5-2hours before sunset is due..

Empire State of mind

9/11 Museum

WARNING; New York Explorer Pass DOES NOT cover this.. I had misread that it did. It in fact only cover’s the tribute centre, so we didn’t make it to the museum. Probably for the best, as, being the over-emotional wreck that I am, I was struggling to blink back the tears just from what was in the tribute centre (we didn’t even do the walking tour!) however, as sick as it sounds, I am fascinated by 9/11. A lot more so than 7/7 despite 7/7 being on “home turf” I am awed by the stories of fate/luck and near survival and loss. I am awed alongside questioning of the conspiracy theories out there. I find the entire disaster just completely insane; and I am gutted to have missed out on the museum. I would do it if we went back; Book in advance. We arrived not long after 9 (opening time) and queues were already insane) and, I’d allow a day for it, given the time we spent in the tribute centre (and could have spent longer + done the 90min walking tour). Do it. These are real life stories/encounters; they won’t be fresh from the humans themselves forever, sadly, we all have to end somewhere.

9/11 Memorial xx
Spooky story & image to match from a 9/11 firefighter.. โœ๏ธ
9/11 Museum

Statue of Liberty/Liberty Island/Ellis Island/Immigration Museum

Again, we just DID NOT seem to have enough time here. I also could only get us tickets to the pedestal of Lady Liberty ๐Ÿ—ฝ – not the Crown as it gets fully booked months in advance; which is a shame as I’d have happily walked the full 354 steps to the top (where vertigo anxiety would likely have taken over, as per..!) so top tip is to book this as far in advance as you can! The immigration museum on Ellis Island is fascinating – there is SO MUCH to look at and take in – anyone who manages to “do” New York in 4 days is insane! I’d recommend the immigration museum as well as the tour of the old, unrestored immigrant hospital buildings, which again we just didn’t have time for; but definitely next time..!!

Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Lady Liberty

Grand Central Station

Just beautiful. Worth a visit for the beauty even if you aren’t travelling… and those whispering walls? They really work!

[but don’t try to grab food there… queues are insane!]

Grand Central Station