New York Prep Part 2

So, hubby is not a keen flier, I have to admit I don’t enjoy flying either, so as we are having to go on a long flight to New York, we decided we may as well adventure whilst we are there! So, after our five days in New York City, exhausted beyond belief and all full of joys from attending what will be a wonderful Wedding, we will be off to explore more of New York State. I have booked our rental car- via Holiday Autos- it was cheaper to go through this third party than directly with Avis. We have booked a Chevy Impala, hubby is a massive fan of American Cars so this felt like a good compromise so he can enjoy a bit of americana! His favourite is the Dodge Challenger/Charger, I can’t remember which one was the number one from those two… but they are very very expensive to rent! We have paid extra for breakdown cover and we already own an american Sat Nav (£40 from Amazon) so cheaper than hiring. The plan is to get the subway back to JFK and collect the car, hubby will then be driving us out of the city, I am way too much of a baby!! I have recently come into the knowledge that Sleepy Hollow is a real town in New York. I know, how did I not already know this? So the first stop is Sleepy Hollow for a quick nosy and photos. In theory, this 35mile trip will take just over an hour.

That first night we are staying in a little smallholding out in Massachusetts via airbnb, it looks delightful and will be the perfect antidote to a busy experience in the city. The plan is to head from Sleepy Hollow to the smallholding, no particular rush and enjoy travelling in a very new area. I would like to cut through Conneticut, just because! The days drive will take around 3hours and cover approx 136miles. We really cannot wait to see some of the local wildlife and other parts of America away from the big cities. I am hoping to arrive by 7pm that evening. We may pick something up to eat in that night so we can just relax. We have paid £108 for this night, I am happy with this, it seems a delighful and quirky home! Plenty of possibilities to see wildlife. They also leave equipment and ingredients to make waffles with the free range duck eggs! Yes please, I am sure we will be missing our chickens by then! It does mention that bears are sometimes roaming around at dusk and dawn, we might see dusk but I am not sure about dawn!

The next day we are heading back into New York State, we will be travelling to Fayetteville to stay in another airbnb. This airbnb is going to be our relaxation place, we can use the pool with the owners and they have a dog, yay! We will be spending three nights here. It is around a three hour drive, 181miles away. So far, I am interested in visiting Howes and/or Secret Caverns if they will be open on the way. We will be passing through Albany, I would also like to pass by the Teepee! This should be a leisurely day, pottering and stopping whenever we want. This airbnb has places to walk and eat, so I think that once we get there, we will unpack and wander around the area exploring. The next couple of days will see us recharging our batteries and exploring all the nature this area has to offer! The fingerlakes are in this area, as is Watkins Glen which we may make an effort to travel too.

We will then be going to Niagara Falls! I really cannot wait for this, I am so excited! I have booked the Seneca Falls Hotel and we do want to go over to the Canadian side as well as go on the boat tours, I think we will plan this in more detail either just before we go, or once we are there. This part of the itenary is fluid, we can either head straight there from Fayetteville in the morning, or do other things in the morning and spend the next day exploring Niagara. This journey will take just under three hours, 173miles, and we will pass through Syracuse. I am thinking it makes sense to just get up and go, meander that way then head to the falls in the afternoon and do as much as possible leaving the next day open.

The next day we are popping over to Pensylvania, we will be staying in Pocono Palace in East Strousberg. This place is super tacky and I cannot wait! I read about the hotel in a book, and knew I had to visit here. This is the most expensive night, we have all inclusive, a room with a 7ft champagne glass bath and a pool in the room. Wow! I absolutely cannot wait for this! It would be good to make the most of this place, mostly due to cost.haha. This will take 5hours 40minutes, and cover 332miles. I would like to stop at Letchworth State Park for a wander on the way.

Then, we will make our way back to JFK, probably very tired and needing another holiday! This is a 3hour journey covering 107miles.

If anyone has any other must sees or try to sees in these areas, please let me know. I will continue planning and reading up until we are already there so always time to add in. I am currently trying to work out if it is better to book a tour at Niagara or DIY the day.

New York (:0) Prep Part 1!

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that I get to go to New York this year, I am so freaking excited about this! All the thanks go to my brother in law and his future misses, who are getting wed in central park- how delightful! Hubby had agreed to go to Florida (we went in Sept last year) then he found out we would need to go to New York next year and he did regret his previous agreement. Not because he is mean spirited, but he doesnt like flying and worried about the cost of things like this- very understandable! But my wanderlust side just wants to go and adventure, and another trip to the USA is just too tantalising!

Firstly, I spent a lot of time- mostly via Pinterest- reading all about New York, things to do, must sees, unusual things etc etc and pinned them all to my places to go board! I still do this and am always pleased to find out about new places or ideas, or possible itenaries to follow so we can smash the trip! As with Florida, I have discussed with Hubby, what would our must sees be, he struggles with future planning so this is quite difficult for him!

Our list currently looks like this (subject to changes and wiggling):

  • Empire State Building
  • Top Of The Rock- yes I want to do both!
  • Statue of Liberty- thinking Ellis Island, could do staten island ferry
  • Central Park
  • The Highline
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • Intrepid Museum
  • Times Square
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Coney Island, Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, mostly inspired by Lana Del Ray!
  • Chelsea Market
  • Pop to Hard Rock Cafe for a glass!

Would like to do:

  • Natural History Museum- mostly to see the T-Rex skeleton
  • The Met- mostly to go up to the roof terrace
  • Museum of Sex- because they have a bouncy castle made of boobs :0
  • Hop on Hop off bus tour
  • Find the waterfall between the streets you can walk under

I bought flights with Thomas Cook for £945, including picking our seats and 23kg of luggage. They then went bust- I jumped online at 4 am as I was still on Orlando time and got the same day, different time flights for £950 including seats and luggage weight. Yay! I always make sure to buy items like this on my credit card as you are protected by Section 75, this meant I made my claim via the credit card company and have been reimbursed the original costs, basically covering the new flight costs. I love the Virgin website too…though it makes me want to bid for better seating- hubby helps me to stay reasonable there!

I researched for a super long time about hotels, so many hotels, so many pros and cons. Personal desires:

  • Air con- we are going in June, this is a warm time, I melt in hot weather
  • Soundproofed rooms- I hate noise. If I hear noises at night I can’t sleep and get twitchier, angrier and more irritable, even if the noise then stops. Ask hubby about living with me with our awful noisy neighbours in the last house!
  • Central and close to transport- yes, the whole of New York is transportable, yes, it has great transport links, I get that. But I am not a city girl, cities scare me and I don’t like being out at night, therefore a central location which will be light, full of people and safe is just what I need!
  • Great reviews- obviously tricky as very subjective
  • Pretty and trendy- I love a modern and sleek hotel! I wouldn’t turn down the perfect hotel if it wasnt these things, but they would sway me to pick one!
  • A rooftop bar!!! Because, New York!

I researched for a really long time, I read about so many hotels, I made lists, got pee’d off, stopped searching for a while, bugged hubby with harrassments and questions. My heart knew what hotel I wanted, but logic was struggling due to the cost. In the end, hubby said, just book the one you love, its location is amazing (rated 9.8 by couples on booking.com), there is a subway 0.2miles from the front door, it is a super funky and modern hotel, like amazingly so! Booking.com states it is a top pick in New York, it gets an overall 9.2 out of 10, on trip advisor it scored 4.5 out of 5. Negatives: Rooms are tiny- usual in New York and the bathroom doesn’t have a proper door- we will poop when out/have been together for a very long time. Extra pros- it has its own rooftop bar purely for guests :0 :0 yes!!!!!! So I excitedly/horrifiedly booked a room in the CitizenM Hotel on Times Square- I requested higher up for better views, the rooms all have giant windows, gadgets to control the blackout blinds, soundproofed rooms with movies and fun lighting all controlled by an ipad, amazing reviews, its own rooftop bar that only the guests can use. I got a discount for an early bird booking directly with them and booked for five nights, since then, we found out the lucky bride and groom are heading on their honeymoon the day after the wedding, so we cut it down a night. Cities are great and all, but exhausting!

We had our list of things we want to do, and we looked at many different options for savings, in the end, we decided to get the New York Pass. It cost £329 for both of us- on sale- and lasts three consecutive days. Some of the things we want to do are free, so they will be worked around this pass and must dos. Coney Island is only open on weekends, so we will go there on Sat or Sun, we aren’t big ride goers, so will happily pop along for a nosy, I do want to go on the Wonder Wheel- This is included with the pass, we can go into Luna Park and ride the wheel for no extra cost. The pass includes Empire State, Ellis Island, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Museum, Hop On and Off bus ride for a day, Intrepid Museum, Natural History Museum, the Met, Museum of Sex, Circle Line Sightseeing tour and lots of other tours and things to do in the five boroughs. I have worked out that we will definately get our monies worth. It also means that some our would like toos, but probably won’t due to cost etc, can be done as cost is then irrelevent and the more we do the better the savings!

I have been playing around with possible itenaries, grouping activities in areas/neighbourhoods. I am still reading up and trying to better understand the layout and connections. For example, Chelsea Market is found at the end/start of the highline, it opens early and closes late, the highline is free, therefore these two go together and can be done around the New York Pass with no money consequence.

I have been researching all about the subway in New York, at this time it would be $32 dollars for a metro card and week of unlimited trips, I feel this would be well worth the money and would do us well as it is the fastest way around the city. My friend recently went and used the train/subway to get from JFK to her hotel and found it pretty painless, we are planning to do the same. Its about an hours travel, at the time we arrive, it will be very busy and I believe we may get charged extra on taxis as they do a peak time tax. It would be nice to save money here to use somewhere else. Plus, getting on with it straight away, will help us get over the fear of using the subway! I have even been watching videos about this- anal, I know!

My one struggle in Orlando, was lack of vege food, or at least lack of awareness of it near us. So I have been researching this for New York. I need to go to Champs diner in Brooklyn, I follow them on instagram, and my goodness, I salivate looking at the food! Bareburger is on the list, it does organic and grass fed meat for hubby, and lots of vegan options for me, including hot dogs! Shake Shack does a fit looking mushroom burger and milkshakes! Alcohol related, I want to get a cocktail at the Sugar Factory! I also have a few bagel stores jotted down, my dream was for a rainbow bagel, but the Bagel Store is shut at the moment, I so hope it reopens before we go! I can’t wait to try a traditional lox bagel (I eat fish on occasion, so pescetarian rather than vegetarian if I am honest!).

I think this is all the research on the first part of the trip, I will write up about the second half soon!

Countdown to Christmas

We like to try and make Christmas magical by doing different things on the countdown, this can be really difficult with our clashing shifts and work hours. Some of these things will be free, some are not at all free, some things are a one off for this year, some things we do every year, some are indoors and some are outdoors! We put the tree and decorations up before we went away, to make sure the house felt Christmassy when we came back!

December 1st-

We went to Glasgow and headed to the Christmas Markets! A nice Christmassy way to welcome December! We were travelling here specifically for NBC live with an Orchestra, we have never travelled this far for Christmas Markets before! Ended up being cheap as we bought nothing!

December 2nd-

We had booked to see Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra and original cast at the Hydro for its 25th anniversary. Super Christmassy, very wonderful and I dont think it is something we will see happening again! I bought middle range seats!

December 3rd-

We watched a program about the making of Home Alone on Netflix, can just pass as Christmassy but had driven back from Glasgow, been shopping for food and also bought some new decorations from the Range! Technically Christmassy to buy decorations?!

December 4th-

Hubby had been working some ridiculous hours today, so the dogs and I watched Christmas films on Netflix! Some of the homemade ones are so good, really give you the Christmas feels!

December 5th-

We watched The Holiday, technically a Christmas film, very good film!

December 6th-

Another Christmas film tonight, with the dark nights and wet weather, this is a good way to welcome Christmas! We havent decided which one yet

December 7th-

We are going for a Christmas meal with friends at their house, this should be a nice cheap evening, with board games and festive things!

We haven’t planned out any other specifics yet, but the other things that we like to do are:

  • Get Christmas Hot Chocolates- home made or shop bought, maybe both
  • Go out for a Christmas meal
  • Wrap presents
  • Watch many of the Christmas films we love, Polar Express is saved for Christmas Eve and Elf is always on Christmas day! Other films: Christmas Chronicles, Home Alone 1&2, Santa Claus 1&2, Get Santa, Jingle all the way, Die hard (!?) and I am sure there are others!
  • Go light hunting, this is sometimes done more than once, we pick a direction and head off looking for the best light displays in our area, the dogs come too!
  • This year we will be decorating a second tree, which my mum is giving to us
  • Adventure to local shops, garden centres and local markets to get that buzz and find local gifts
  • Hubby has a December birthday, on that day we ignore Christmas and make it about him!
  • Do the gift delivery to family
  • Go to Santa night if not in work!
  • Wear Christmas clothes, this can be just around the house, to work or when we go out!

Please share any ideas that you do, or traditions that you have, I am always looking to expand my horizons!

Glasgow

On Sunday 1st December, we said goodbye to the doggies, leaving them with their lovely sitter and drove 4hours and 15minutes to Glasgow! The drive down was great, very little congestion, hubby did all the driving (I did offer to share) and we stopped for a hot drink, krispy kreme donut and burger king on the way!

We arrived at the hotel- Radisson Red- parked up and were just in time to check in. We unloaded our bags, checked out the very lovely room, with perfect views of the Hydro stadium and the Clyde River. Then off we went, using google maps. We wandered into the heart of the city, along the riverside which was beautiful, it was very, very cold! Our main aim was to get to George Square for the Christmas Markets. We had a really good wander around, looked through the Market and all the other lovely shops before getting a bit lost and confused, then headed back to the hotel. We found the local Hard Rock Cafe- this has become an accidental thing, we have glasses from Vegas, London, Edinburgh, Paris and Orlando, we will collect more in New York! We had tea at the hotel, a cocktail and got a bottle of wine- which I have brought home as we didn’t finish it!haha. Food was ok, quite pricey for what it was. I was worried about noise levels in the hotel, but actually, it was all quiet!

Radisson Red in Glasgow: views from the window and our room! We could see the Hydro!

We got up at 8am the following day, got dressed, wrapped up warm and walked to TriBeCa cafe on Dumbarton Road, took about 33minutes. I chose this place for breakfast after googling for the best pancakes in Glasgow! I am a bit obsessed with american style pancakes, I admit, I have issues! We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast there, the pancakes were so yum as was the french toast. Hubby had candied bacon on his, he said it was delishious! Once we were filled, we wandered about 15minutes to the Riverside Museum.

Wow, what a museum! We loved it, its up there for me, with the Mob museum in Vegas! The building itself was fascinating, and the inside was just great, really interesting, well designed and interesting space! We spent a couple of hours wandering around and enjoying it all. I am sure it would be easy to spend more time there if you were so inclined. The museum was free, they survive on donations, we donated a tenner for both of us. We then went to the Tall Ship, which is behind the museum on the river. This was fascinating and interesting too, again free, so a small donation was made. We then got the hop on hop off bus, hubby enjoyed lisitening to the audio, I enjoyed looking out of the window. We got off at George Square then wandered down towards Enoch Shopping Centre. I found Yours, plus size shop and got some great clothes all on offer, yay! We didn’t end up going into the shopping centre, we were all shopped out just from the high street, there are so many shops! We then got back on the hop on hop off bus and got back to the hotel. We booked into the Rotunda Italian restaurant for an early tea, as that night was the main reason we travelled to Glasgow. We had the pre-theatre menu, which was super yummy, it was very busy so the service was a bit hit and miss understandably. Good food, would definately go back!

Mega fit pancakes from TriBeCa, some Glasgow shots and some of the Christmas Market!

The reason we went to Glasgow: The Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra, featuring Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Ken Page!!!!!!!!

OMG, could I be anymore excited?! Probably not, I am a massive NBC fan, watch it every year, got married on Halloween and got the DJ to play some of the songs during the night! We booked the tickets a year ago, when I saw that it was coming over for the 25th anniversary. Hubby decided he would like to see it in Glasgow, as we have been to London a few times and the distance is similar. So, thats how we came to be in Glasgow. He has been to Glasgow before and I hadn’t, and as a massive Scotland fan, I was more than happy to go! We walked the two minutes from the hotel to the Hydro, wasted some time before going to sit to watch the show.

It was incredible, the Orchestra were incredible, Danny Elfman was out of this world, the back up singers were perfection, Catherine O’Hara knocked my socks off and Ken Page was spot on! Best production I have ever been too, I didn’t think I could love NBC anymore than I do, but I do love it even more now! We did queue up and get a program- £15, ouch. But you gotta do it sometimes! After the brilliant show, we went up to the Red Sky Bar at the hotel and had a couple of very expensive cocktails before going to sleep.

The screens at the Hydro, we were on quite an angle, but still a great view! My Sally ears came all the way from Orlando in September, love them! And hubby always looks good!

We then travelled home- the car needs a very expensive part replacing so that made the drive a bit tense, but we got home in one piece!

Costs:

  • Radisson Red- £158 for 2nights
  • Parking at hotel- £10 for 2 nights
  • Tickets for NBC- £124 for 2 tickets including booking fee etc
  • Food, drink, fuel and miscellaneus- £311
  • Hop On Hop Off bus- £32 for 2 of us for one day

What a great short break, Glasgow is a great industrial city, lots of shops etc and plenty to do! If you are thinking of going, stop thinking and go!

Florida Round Up!

We got off to a good start, our hotel, the Radisson was very close to the terminals, with a covered walk way. After a good nights sleep- well, excited wakey nights sleep- we wandered off to find the correct terminal. No problems at all, except the flat escalators weren’t all working and I am a grump in the mornings! Just as we arrived at the terminal, we looked up to see my family and the others coming with us stepping off the taxi! Perfect timing! We checked our luggage in with minimal queuing and went off to the lounge. We drank fizzy wine and ate some yummy food, did some duty free shopping- I just bought toblerone! Then headed onto the plane with plenty of time to spare. The pilot announed we might even set off early! Ultimately, we ended up leaving nearly an hour late. Talk about frustrating and numb bummy when the flight was already over 9 hours long!

Flight was pleasantly uneventful, we paid £12 to get the enhanced entertainment and enjoyed lots of films, food and drinks. I also love watching the planes progress on the sky map, would love it if you could zoom in and have a good nosy though!haha.

Once in Orlando, it took an absolute age to get through customs, then the bags were delayed, must have taken two hours to finally head to pick up the car. It was a bit of a faff, it was a 12 seater which was great, except we all had huge suitcases, cue me getting very frustrated and feeling fat when I was trying to squish in the chairs!! After all that, we headed out of the airport and headed on our way! There was more fuss when trying to get the room keys, the car was hot, full of people and luggage and we were all getting quite cranky by this point! When we finally got to our apartment, it was so worth the wait, the master bedroom was amazing- we bagsied as paid extra and we’re super old compared to my sister and her boyf! The balcony was fab, the ensuite amazing, the whole place was great. And the air con was so appreciated after the heat outside! That night we wandered over to the clubhouse for food, which was ok, not a lot of choice anywhere we went for non-meat eaters though if I am honest!

Day 2- We went to the local Walmart, which was huge and as crazy as I hoped, no guns here though! We bought unicorn cake ice cream- this had purple glitter in it- and my favourite wine was less than 10$ for a litre! We left the family all relaxing by the pool after this and headed over to International Drive, Icon Park. Hubby was amazing driving in the USA for the first time in a small tank! It was a super hot day, we went to the Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium, this is something we like to do when there is a local one! The 365degree glass tunnel was very impressive! We drank frozen slushies and tried not melt as we wandered around. After that, we headed back to the apartment and went out for a late tea with everyone!

Perfect reverse parking in this beast! Kudos hubby!

Day3- After some drama the night before trying to organise everyone, we all went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We were the only ones in the group to have pre bought tickets, they all bought one dayers and met us inside, at a much higher rate than we had gotten. We had a great time, hubby isnt a massive fan of rides so we went on whatever he felt he could manage. Very much enjoyed the fabulousness of the themed areas, Springfield and New York were great! We rode the Hogwarts express over to Islands of Adventure, queued a ridiculous amount of time for Hagrids Motorbike Adventure, which was great and enjoyed Hogsmeade before carrying on! I did purchase the Elder Wand and we had fun trying out the magic, though I am not a natural! It was a super busy day for us. The first couple of weeks in September seemed like a perfect time, apart from Hagrid, there were 10minute queues for pretty much all the other rides! Was a lovely way to spend the day with everyone before heading back, and having another late tea out!

Quick snapshot, Hogwarts Castle, Patrick Starr! Chocolate Emporium and Gringotts!

Day 4- Hubby, myself, sister and her boyf all headed off in the morning for Volcano Bay, it was amazing! Loved the whole theme and they way it is all put together. We shared a locker and could all open it separately with our Tapu Tapus which was really useful when we went our separate ways! I enjoyed some cocktails and a wonderful vegan burger here, so much appreciated that I could enjoy no fish for once! We came for opening and stayed until closing. Hubby was brave and did one of the drop slides, he was still shaking when he came to find me after! The wave pool and both the lazy and fast rivers were brilliant. We did have to evacuate a couple of times due to possible lightening strikes, but everything was fine! Felt rejuvinating after such a busy day the day before!

Such an amazing place! Loved Volcano Bay and all the details that went into making this fab water park!

Day 5- Pretty calm day, spending time at the pool before heading over to Old Town for the American muscle Car show. What a fab town, so much fun, nice shops and a lovely pub for a drink. Live music was playing, and best of all, loads of amazing cars! We enjoyed our evening here, then popped to IHOP for a late tea and a couple of giant gift stores for a mooch!

Day 6- We got the shuttle over to Universal and Islands, we popped to the Chocolate Emporium, such an incredible steampunk based cafe/restaurant. I got a birthday cake freakshake which was delicious! We took a much slower route around both parks, taking lots of pictures and noticing a lot more than the first time round! We got the Hogwarts express back to Universal so got to enjoy it both ways and I played with my wand again, very fun! It was very hot and we were getting tired after spending the day mooching and nosing so headed back to the complex, not realising how far it was, so the taxi cost $50, ouch! Lovely driver though.

The simpsons donut! So gooood!

Day 7- I accidently enjoyed too many buckets of cocktails at the pool, got room service, had a 15minute nap before my little sister came to wake me as I needed to get ready for Halloween Horror Nights! Quick shower, sister braided my hair, lots of water and we headed out! Everyone had some food when we arrived, but I couldnt face it! Honestly, I think this was my favourite thing about the whole trip! My stepbrother, his girlfriend, Auntie Netty, hubby and I were the only ones brave enough to go, perfect group to go with! We headed straight for Ghostbusters, it had one of the longest queue times and I couldn’t see it getting any shorter! It was great, the scare zones were fabulous. We went into Ghostbusters, Stranger things 2&3, The Yeti, Monsters, US and Killer Klowns from Outer Space- my goodness how amazing, so much effort and perfect timing! Think US and Yeti were my favourites, found Stranger Things too stroby with the lights and they were rushing us through! We left at 1am in the morning, I was still hungover and tired but wished we could have done more houses! We didn’t get time to use our free night which was such a shame, I think House of a 1000 Corpses would have been amazing. Lots of queueing, which was to be expected.

Some shots from Halloween Horror Nights, and one from the daytime in Universal! Couldn’t get pictures to do the night justice!

Day 8- So very late to bed, very early to rise! Hubby, sister, her boyf, stepbrothers gf and I had all decided that we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom as well as Hollywood Studios! So the day before, we bought Disney Park Hopper for the day, this was not cheap, but totally worth it! We headed straight to Pandora, this was so beautiful! We didn’t go on Flights of passage though my sister said it was the best ride ever! We did go on the river which was just so pretty and fascinating! We pottered around, went on Safari walked through exhibits and had lunch in the park before getting the bus over to Magic Kingdom. We literally had time to take some pictures, rush over to the castle to get the iconic picture before we had to get over to Hollywood Studios as we had lightsabers to build! Did I mention that it was the hottest day of the entire holiday so far? I was very moany and tired by this point in the day, and the bus to transfer us seemed to take forever to come. We made it to Hollywood Studios and met up with the rest of the crew. We spent quite a lot of time in Galaxys Edge, hubby built his own lightsaber- expensive, but a fantastic thing to do! My stepbrother also built one, they were both very excited! The attention to detail was just unbelievable! We then had a potter around the whole park, to be honest, we were just so hot by this point, that when my stepdad came to pick us up at 6.30pm, we were glad to get home! Though on reflection, I wish we had at least pottered over to Epcot, or hung out somewhere until the fireworks came on! Got uber eats for tea that night!

Quite literally ran in here for this picture! Magic Kingdom!
The lightsaber!

Day 9- We had a lovely day in the apartment and by the pool just relaxing and recharging, lots of badly played volleyball went on!

Day 10- We went to NASA! I will be totally honest, I wasn’t sure I would be that bothered, I am not spacey, but hubby is spacey and has always wanted to go! I was very surprised at how interesting it all was, I was really gripped. We also saw an Alligator which was my best bit! It was a hot but very valuable day out, I would recommend NASA as a must do! We went out to a cheap pizza place called Cici’s for tea, where I had found a discount card for buy one get on free on unlimited pizza buffet, best tea of the trip and it only cost $8 for both of us!haha. I am a cheapskate and honestly, I think our food bill would have been a lot less if it was just the two of us!

Day 11- Another pool day, with tea at the clubhouse for our final night together!

Day 12- We travelled home, plane left on time, Thomas Cook staff were great and the only hold up was collecting our car from the hotel as someone who had the keys wasn’t there- annoying when you just want to go home and sleep!

Hope this may be of some interest to anyone who has been or is thinking of going!

Florida Prep

I love to read and research about places we are going to go on holiday, and even places we may never end up going! I love to read about what amazing places, eateries and things there are to do, and make lists upon lists of must do’s, if we get time do’s and fantasy do’s!

So it will be no shocker than when we decided to go to Florida, I researched the poop out of the holiday! I was aware we would never be able to do everything that I had read about or listed so we narrowed it down to must do’s:

  • Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure- this comes with Volcano Bay, the new water park, and ticked off hubbies must do of a water park visit!
  • Halloween Horror Nights, they would be on when we went, and we needed to go!
  • Hollywood Studios- New Star Wars land, Galaxys Edge for hubby!
  • Old Town for the American Muscle Car show on a Friday night
  • NASA

We were initially only going to go for 8 nights, but we found a kennels we liked (dog boarding but seperate areas- we will never use them again, as when we got back dogs were all stressed and the people said the little dog was aggressive. There is a whole other story here which basically boils down to the kennels not doing what they said they would). So I got in touch with the airline and paid £100 to move both our tickets from the Tuesday to the Friday. I was happy to spend this, but to be fair could have been avoided if we hadn’t prebooked the tickets!

We booked our flights 18months out, with Thomas Cook, we were flying out with 8 other people in total and my mum wanted to lock in the early bird prices and they seemed perfectly acceptable so I happily agreed. They all went for 14nights, too long for us to be away from home! I feel our 11 nights was just the right amount of time, any longer I would have been homesick!

The rest of the folks all got a taxi to the airport, we didn’t, obviously, as we came back early and there was no way a taxi for 2 would be cost effective. We got a hotel and parking in one for a good deal (IMHO). I will go over prices towards the end of this epic tale!

We prebooked Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay and Halloween Horror Night tickets with attractionticketsdirect. No affiliated links here, just that they were offering the best deals at the time! We got 14day unlimited tickets for all three parks which was great. And Halloween Horror Nights came with buy one night, get one free! Love it! W bought NASA tickets direct from their website on a day where they were offering a 10% discount, another win!

Old Town was cost free in theory, any spends would be our choices and we would get to see some authentic american muscle cars- hubbies favourite!

We debated getting our own car- ultimately would have been more convenient on reflection- but we hired out a 12seater mini bus instead, hubby and step dad were the drivers on it and everyone chipped in!

Accomodation was ‘free’, as my mum and stepdad have a timeshare and points to spend. We did pay to upgrade our room from a one bedroom with settee bed, to a two bedroom as we were sharing with my little sister and her boyfriend, and to be honest, we live alone usually! First world problems, I dont want to sleep on the couch, or have someone sleep on the couch, I want to be able to unpack and make myself at home- not possible in one bedroom and I am not used to sharing closed spaces with others! Money well spent, we got a huge two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a balcony overlooking the golf course with a beautiful lake. We got a massive room and the ensuite was insane! Huge bath and massive shower! Brilliant kitchen and lounge area and washing machine and drier. The complex itself was also beautiful, lots of swimming pools, couple of places to eat and lots of beautiful lakes. Lots of wildlife too, which I find very exciting!

The only downside for hubby and myself about the complex, was you had to drive everywhere, there was a walmart and restaurants 10minutes away in the car, this meant taxis to eat out every night. I think if we were going alone, we would have forgone the beauty of this complex for convenience. For others in the group, this was also a relaxing and rejuvinating holiday, so this was great for them. I think we only spent one whole day next to the pool!haha.

We got a great deal on exchanging money as hubbies work had USA dollars that they no longer used, so they sold it to staff at previous rate of 1.42 dollars to the pound. We changed all our money to cash, we are heading to New York next year so left overs are fine!

It was agreed that this holiday was all about theme parks, so that is where we would channel our times and efforts! Most people had been before except hubby and sisters boyfriend. I hadnt been since I was a teenager and couldnt wait to go back!

One thing I found frustrating, was that people wanted to go with the flow, I like to plan the crap out of things like this, so I did struggle there! I think it would have been a very different holiday if we went alone, but there are so many aspects of the holiday that were made great by having a group of lovely people with us that I wouldn’t change it!

Money breakdowns (warning, though I attempted to be money saving, we did spend a lot of money 🙂 )

  • Thomas Cook Flights- £980 in total, this includes the date change and booking seats in advance, as I like to pick my seats, I am sad! We flew back on the Friday before they went bust. Sad about this, they were great. The rest of our group flew on the Monday, the day they went bust, luckily they were brought back with no issue
  • Hotel (Radisson) at the airport with two weeks secure parking- £179.10, could have been cheaper, but very happy with the service!
  • Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, 14 day unlimited tickets- £548 for both of us. Best deal we could find at the time
  • Halloween Horror Nights- £135 for two tickets, and we got a night free- sadly didnt get time to use the extra night. The people in the group that came with us bought tickets online just before we went and paid about £10 more per person, on the doors was so much more expensive!
  • Travel Insurance- £65.39 for both of us, for multi trips so cover a couple of local holidays this year and New York next year
  • ESTA- $28, for both of us and will cover New York next year
  • We last minute decided to buy a park hopper for Disney, instead of just Hollywood studios, we went onto the website the day before and paid around £400 for both of us, I cannot remember the exact figure, cheaper than on the door
  • NASA- £78 for both of us, such a fantastic place!
  • Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium- $70
  • Car Hire- £250 including extra payment to make hubby a named driver, that was the highest cost!
  • Room upgrade- £200
  • VIP lounge- £40 for both, loved this, drinking fizzy wine and eating snacks before the flight!!
  • Eating out and taxiing- disgusting amount of money I don’t want to think about!Haha.

I think that is most of the costs, but if I think of anymore I will add them on! I am not adding this up- I think I will cry. I loved the holiday though, hubby also built himself a lightsaber- so expensive, but he paid for it himself- and it was a great experience and the lightsaber is often twirled around even now! I would definately go back to Florida, not sure I would be bothered about the Theme Parks, kind of been there done that, but we only saw one alligator, I wanted to see Manatees, I wanted to go walking to find bears, go to the Florida Keyes etc! So that can be a future adventure!

Northumberland

I love getting away, I love exploring new areas, and I love to go away for my birthday! Yesterday, we arrived back from a three day trip to Northumberland, we stayed in an airbnb property, which was small but perfect for our needs- also a great price of £50 a night! It was in a lovely little village, with a nice pub opposite.

We spent time in Chillingham Castle, it was pretty quirky and interesting. It is apparently one of the most haunted castles in England- and I can believe that! It was taken over by Sir Humphrey Wakefield after it had been left to decay and rot for over 50years, he took the time to fix it up, including the ceilings in some rooms and get it back to its functional self. Sir Wakefield is a hoarder of interesting and random historical items, but as he has so much space to fill, he becomes a collector! We enjoyed the uniqueness of this place, it was much more than a castle and has such a rich history. I believe you can stay in the grounds and they do ghost tours, I didnt fancy that, I am a baby! The grounds are beautiful and we wandered through the woodlands, we saw a fox but no deer sadly. I also got serious garden envy!

Chillingham also has the only wild cattle in the UK, we went to see them as part of a secondary tour. It was certainly interesting and the cattle look interesting, smaller than a lot of other cattle. We heard bulls rutting and having fights up on the hill and saw some calves. The tours are only at set times on certain days. I loved the castle, the cattle tour was interesting but not as much as the castle!

We also went to Alnwick gardens, I love this place! It is the best gardens I have ever been too, and I love going to gardens! I think it was because the space was filled with interesting things, like the corridor of cherry blossom, which of course were still beautiful at this time of year, tulips and daffodils lined the paths and giant swings were dotted all over. The walled garden was incredible- walled gardens are the sexiest things in my humble opinion- the symmetry was just so eye catching. The way the trees were trained to espalier looked awesome and the water features, which again reflected the symmetry just felt so inspiring! There is a massive water feature right at the start which has fountain shows, and a corridor made of trees on either side. The serpent garden has the most amazing water features, and the bamboo maze is just fantastic! The rose garden was sadly not in bloom but still great, and the Poison garden was just fascinating!

The Castle at Alnwick is interesting, but a bit too perfect for me, I do like Castles to be falling down a little, or quirky ala Chillingham, though the views were stunning. We got to see a quidditch training session taking place!

We drove past Bambrough castle which was very picturesque and went along the coast for a drive, then on to Rothbury which is a sweet little town. We also went to Dobbies garden centre where I bought a Bonsai tree! So exciting!

The dogs stayed in kennels, this cost us just over £80, we payed for the Alnwick castle and gardens tickets in advance, this cost just over £50 with the online discount, airbnb cost us £150 for three nights, we have an economical car so that helps with carbon footprint and cost! It was £35.50 for Chillingham Castle and Cattle for both of us, which we paid when got there. In total we spent an extra £395 on the castle, fuel, eating out lots, and shopping! I am quite happy with this! I love a get away and we dont like to skimp, the room we had only had a small fridge and no cooking facilities, so great excuse to eat out and about!