USA Road Trip – Day 6 – A Top Gun Kind of Day…

We awoke to beautiful sunshine and headed down for breakfast inside the hotel. The food was average but we couldn’t complain as it was free! Plus the portions were huge! I had pancakes with berries and the others had the full American.

Over breakfast we discussed what we wanted to do with the day. We had researched a few things we wanted to do in San Diego, however we had no set plan on what days we should do what and after quite a full on time in Vegas, we were hoping to fit in some relaxation at the beaches at some point too.

If you read my Vegas posts you will know our plan regarding 4 places, 4 names picked out of a hat, surprise the group with something. Well I had chosen San Diego. So I decided to put my plans into action. After breakfast we jumped into the wagon and drove down to the Harbour, as our first stop of the day was the USS Midway Museum.

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Now you may think that what I chose as the surprise sounds a bit boring, but actually the main reason I had chosen it was due to it being linked to Top Gun and who doesn’t love Top Gun? It’s one of Matt and I’s favourites!

Whilst researching San Diego back at home I quickly found out that 90% of Top Gun was filmed in the area so I thought it would be fun to visit some of the locations (if we could find them!) I’m still shocked that they don’t do a Top Gun mini bus tour or something to take fans around to all the locations, seriously why hasn’t anyone thought of this?! But I digress back to the ship…

”USS Midway was an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the lead ship of her class. She was the largest ship in the world until 1955. She operated for 47 years, during which time she saw action in the Vietnam War and served as the Persian Gulf flagship in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1992, she is now a museum ship at the USS Midway Museum, in San Diego.”

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Look at this view from the top of the ship – beautiful!

We spent a couple of hours on the ship, exploring every room and taking in all the stories. Matt and Megs even rode in a fighter jet flight simulator but mine and Fraser’s stomach’s never would have handled it!

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Not wanting to miss anymore of the sunshine, we decided to take a stroll along the harbour, which was so beautiful and picturesque taking a look at the Unconditional Surrender statue along the way.
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We popped into The Fish Market Restaurant for a drink and a cool down. It was such a lovely place and the food, especially the freshly caught seafood looked amazing however I had other ideas for our lunch spot…

Kansas City BBQ A Top Gun location with the added bonus of delicious BBQ food and sunshine.

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A couple of the iconic scenes from the film were shot here, including the Great Balls of Fire Piano and the Jukebox.

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The place was filled with memorabilia however it still had a locals vibe. After looking around inside we decided to eat outside as we wanted to enjoy the incredible weather whilst eating our delicious food.

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There were a few other locations from the film I would have liked to have found however they were quite a way from where we were, so we asked our waitress where the best beach was and she told us Coronado, so off we drove (thank goodness for sat nav!) over the bridge to Coronado Beach.

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Oh Em Gee just look at this place!

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It looked like something out of a movie scene. Picture perfect white sand, barely any other visitors, pure bliss.

We found a spot to settle in for the rest of the afternoon and chilled/napped in the sunshine.

Keen to explore a bit more of the surroundings, we walked along the waves towards the Hotel del Coronado, which was stunning.

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We found a table at the outdoor bar area on the balcony, overlooking the beach, ordered a few drinks and just breathed it all in. Oh how we wished we were staying at this hotel and waking up to this view everyday! We’ve already said numerous times that we want to go back and stay there.

The hotel has also been featured in numerous films dating back to the early 1900’s! But the most iconic is Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe.

We played cards and Megs and I drank local wine before making a leisurely stroll back to the parked car, passing all the amazing houses along the way.

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Don’t you think this looks like Gru’s house from Despicable Me?

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After chilling and changing back at the hotel we decided to get a cab into the city for dinner at a little Italian restaurant. We seemed to be the only ones about, not that we were complaining as the food and service were amazing, but it just seemed a bit odd not seeing anyone else around, however what a great first day in San Diego!

Love, Chloe xx

USA Road Trip – Day 5 – Let the Driving Begin…

We all had mixed feelings about leaving Las Vegas. We had had so much fun over the past few days and had managed to fit so much in, that we didn’t really want to leave. However we also couldn’t wait to start the rest of our trip and explore new places.

We had planned on visiting the Aria Buffet for breakfast as one last Vegas treat, however the wait time for a table was roughly an hour and we just didn’t have the time to wait for that long. So instead we headed to the Aria Cafe for a quick bite to eat and then said our farewells to the strip, as we got a cab to the hire car building to prepare for the next part of the trip.

The car hire guy was so friendly and helpful and actually upgraded our car to something bigger than originally booked when he noticed how many bags we had and how big our suitcases were! So we ended up with what we called The Wagon, a huge Chevrolet Suburban – typically American and very exciting for our trip ahead.

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Suitcase Tetris! 

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Trusty Sat Nav

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Megs excited for the next adventure 

Ready to hit the road, Matt was the first to drive. Our plan was to drive the 4 hours to Palm Springs for lunch and to explore the area and then continue on the further 3 hour drive to San Diego.

We were told to follow this road for 147 miles!!

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It was so fascinating driving from Las Vegas into the middle of nowhere. We would go miles without seeing a thing apart from a few plants or a dusty track leading to somewhere else and then randomly we would see the odd hotel and we even saw a theme park, which just seemed so crazy as we had no idea who would visit.

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After a couple of hours on the road we stopped in a little town called Barstow, to get petrol and stock up on a few road trip snacks! Then Fraser took over the driving to Palm Springs.

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The views upon arriving in Palm Springs were amazing, palm tree upon palm tree and with a hazy sunshine mist it looked like we had stepped into the 1970’s. It was also really quiet, no one seemed to be about and the streets were empty.

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We had a little look around but nothing seemed to be that busy or open it was actually a little eerie. So we decided to find a place for lunch. We stumbled across a little cafe called The Sandwich Shop which as you can imagine had every style of sandwich imaginable and they were happy for you to mix and match creations and they even had all their own secret sauces.

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I opted for The French Open – Marinated Chicken, Hot Sauce and bleu cheese dressing. My favourite! We decided to sit inside and enjoy our spread, the sandwiches were delicious but huge, I could only manage half of mine!

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I’m unsure if it was just a bit out of season (Coachella was happening a few weeks after we left – if only we had planned better!) or if Palm Springs is just sleepy but it looked beautiful and I wish we had spent longer there or even just stayed for 1 night just to find out what it’s really like when it comes alive.

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The Wagon

I decided to drive to San Diego, I was a little nervous to begin with 1. because I had never driven on the wrong side of the road before and 2. because the car was so huge! I quickly got used to it though and we were soon making our way through little towns, watching the ever changing views and eventually watching the sun set.

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Tired after over 7 hours on the road, we finally arrived at Hotel Handlery.

We couldn’t wait to be greeted with a friendly smile, a big comfy bed and a nice restaurant to walk to. Unfortunately this wasn’t quite the case. I won’t go into full details but lets just say they couldn’t find us on their booking system, we had to wait around for a long time in the hotel reception and bar area which was very messy and hadn’t been tidied after a large group of people left, when we finally got keys to our rooms – the rooms were not as advertised and the service overall was just poor.

By this point it was almost 9pm, so all 4 of us went back down to reception to ask where we could walk to for dinner, they told us that nothing was in walking distance and that everything pretty much closed at 9pm! Instead of crying we laughed it off and walked over to the bar/restaurant area which was next to the reception area, only to be told that if we wanted food we needed to order it now as the kitchen closed at 9pm and that the bar would be closing shortly after. We couldn’t understand why everything closed so early but rules are rules, so we quickly ordered a few dishes to share along with 2 bottles of wine and a round of vodkas, well it had been a stressful evening after a very long journey!

We found the cleanest table we could, waited for our food and drinks to arrive, played cards and decided to forget about the events of the evening, hoping that things would look a lot better in the morning!

Love, Chloe xx

 

 

 

USA Road Trip – Day 1 – Getting There!

I couldn’t believe that the day had finally arrived to start our 2 week USA Road Trip, along with our friends Megs and Fraser.

The 4 of us had talked about going on a trip together for a while, but then one Sunday afternoon we started joking about how fun it would be to go to the Rugby Sevens in Las Vegas. Well it started off as a joke but then we may have started looking into it in some detail and realised that due to the Sevens being in March (which is very early season for Vegas) the costs weren’t actually that bad. Then the next thing you know we’re looking into a complete West Coast Road Trip and a week later we booked it! Sometimes the most spontaneous trips are the best.

The plan? Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles and finally San Francisco.

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We flew from Gatwick to Las Vegas on a dreary March morning, excited to begin our trip and hopefully enjoy some warmer weather!

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Our friend took this photo of our plane taking off as she works at Gatwick!

Surprisingly the 11 hour flight went by really quickly. We ate a lot of food, we chatted about the fun things we had planned and we watched as many films as we possibly could, finally landing at 1pm Vegas time to pure blue skies and beautiful sunshine.

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I love coming into land in Vegas as you get to see the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and you get a great view of the strip which makes me so excited.

We stayed at the Aria Hotel which is one of the newest hotels on the strip. It sits in the centre opposite The Planet Hollywood Hotel. I had wanted to stay here for a while as it just looked so modern and had a great location and it really didn’t disappoint. On arrival the hotel reception was immaculate, the staff were friendly and check in was a relatively quick process for Vegas standards.

We had 2 standard rooms known as Deluxe King Rooms (they were incredible so don’t be mistaken they will be basic) The receptionist managed to get us rooms next to each other on the 15th floor with a view of Planet Hollywood opposite.

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But enough about the rooms we wanted to get out and explore, so we quickly freshened up and went for a walk in the sunshine along the strip.

Taking in all the new sights we pointed out shops, bars and restaurants we wanted to visit while we were there. Then we decided to find somewhere for cocktails that was still outside and we ended up at Bubba Gumps. To be honest this wouldn’t have been our first choice but it had the perfect location with a balcony terrace overlooking the strip, directly in the sunshine and had tables available. We ordered cocktails in light up glasses (when in Vegas!) and toasted to an amazing 2 weeks ahead.

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We were enjoying our drinks and the view when Matt told us we would have to make our way back to the hotel shortly for the first surprise of the trip – It had been an idea when planning the trip that as there were 4 of us and we were visiting 4 locations (Las Vegas, San Diego, LA & San Francisco) that we should each pick a location out of the hat and then plan something in secret for that place to surprise the others with.

So first up was Matt as he had chosen Las Vegas and he didn’t disappoint with his surprise. We were being collected from our hotel and taken to Las Vegas Strip Terminal ready for a helicopter ride over the strip at night. Excited was an understatement and an amazing way to kick off the first night of the trip!

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I must admit I was a little nervous at first. I’m not scared of flying or of heights but I really don’t like sudden drops and as I was sat next to the door and all I could see was the strip below I did have a little freak out thinking we would drop out of the sky! But after I got over that thought and decided to really take in the view of the strip, it was just incredible. Completely lit up and twinkling all around you, it was just stunning.

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On the ride back to the hotel we all became really tired, I guess jet lag had finally kicked in. So we decided to grab a bite to eat at one of our favourites Blondies and then called it a night ready for tomorrows adventures!

Love, Chloe x

 

Honeymoon Day 11 – When in Vegas…

After an almost 12 hour sleep, I clearly needed it! We decided to walk next door to the Wynn for their buffet breakfast. Believe me when I say that there is nothing better than a Vegas buffet breakfast. Last time we visited we fell in love with the Caesars Palace buffet. However as we were in walking distance to the Wynn, we thought we would give theirs a try this time.

There was a small wait for a table, but it didn’t matter as you had a lovely view of the whole restaurant which is beautifully decorated with the biggest floral arrangements I have ever seen, it’s stunning.

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The seating area is spotlessly clean and very open and airy, filled with all these amazing flowers, plus they had TV screens showing adverts of the shows to see and things to do, which I enjoyed.

Now for the main event…the food! I think I went up to the buffet 3 times in the end, as there is just so much choice and I wanted to try it all! It is also really good value for money as it will seriously set you up for the day. I started with some granola, yoghurt and mini pastries, then went onto pizza (who doesn’t love pizza for breakfast!?) and finally I ended on some mini desserts such as strawberry cheesecake and mint choc chip cones, which were just delicious! I really wanted to get an ice cream to take away with me, but I had already eaten way too much so went against the idea. Matt stuck to the more traditional breakfast items like toast, bacon, bagels, salmon etc. There is definitely something for everyone, whatever you fancy!

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Opposite the Wynn and Encore Hotels is the Fashion Show Mall, it’s not overwhelmingly big like some American malls, but has all the shops you could want or need, so we decided to head there after breakfast as we needed to walk off all those treats.

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The mall was pretty quiet when we arrived which was great, as it was like we had the place to ourselves! Matt brought a few more bits in American Eagle while I found a new love with the shop Express, which unfortunately we don’t have in the UK. The sales assistants in Express were so helpful. When they saw me carrying around a few items I wanted to try on they took them from me, set up a changing room ready and still allowed me to go around & look at more clothes, before trying everything on. They even picked a few things they thought I might like and added them to my cubicle too! Take note UK High Streets!

I also fell in love with the shop Hot Topic, where I ended up buying a lot of presents for my sister for her Birthday. We didn’t spend too long shopping though as we wanted to head back to the hotel pool for some sunshine before heading out that evening.

Back at our hotel, we did a quick change and then headed down to find a spot by the pool. It was quite busy but The Encore has a few pools to chose from so you should always be able to find a spot by the one you are after. Whether that’s the Encore Beach Club with it’s famous parties, The European Pool Area with casino tables, hot tubs and stage for live music. Or the smaller pool which we always found ourselves at, as it had the perfect mix of relaxation but you could still hear the music from the other areas so it wasn’t too boring. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the sunshine, enjoying the yummy frozen strawberry daiquiris!

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That evening our hotel concierge had amazingly managed to get us a table at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak Restaurant located inside the Paris Hotel.

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On arrival we spotted the man himself which was really exciting, but we didn’t manage to get a photo with him. We did however get a photo with Chef Christina which if you are a fan of Hell’s Kitchen, like we are was pretty cool. She was so lovely and I think a bit shocked that a British person was asking for her photo!

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The food was absolutely amazing and we were shocked at the large portion sizes considering it’s a fancy place. To start Matt had the Shrimp cocktail, I have never seen shrimp so big they were huge! I went for the pork belly which to be honest could have easily been a main course, but it was super tasty.

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Then for mains Matt had the Wagyu American filet steak which I think is one of the best things he has ever eaten, as he has mentioned it a few times since! I had the fish and chips and was shocked when 2 whole fish arrived, it was delicious but I couldn’t finish it all.

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For dessert I had the sorbet as I fancied something light and refreshing and Matt had the baked Alaska. They brought our desserts out with candles, as a celebration of our honeymoon.

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After dinner we headed over to Omnia nightclub in Caesars Palace to see Calvin Harris’ DJ set. Not your typical honeymoon evening but we had such a fun time and Calvin was amazing.

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The views from the bridge on our walk over to Omnia 

 

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We finally got back to our hotel around 4am and decided to do some gambling, when in Rome Vegas… 

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Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 10 – Unusual Utah & Viva Las Vegas!

A 3am wake up call is never fun but we were both excited for the next adventure and exploring somewhere new.

It was dark driving to the airport, but we managed to drop the hire car off with no issues and made it through security in good time – considering how busy the airport already was, with everyone trying to escape the hurricane. We bought a couple of hot drinks and boarded the plane to Utah, ready for our 6am departure.

It was roughly a 4.5 hour flight to Salt Lake City, Utah, but as we were both pretty tired we decided to try and sleep the best we could and actually the time flew by.

Utah are 2 hours behind Orlando so when we landed we had a couple of hours free before our connection flight to Las Vegas. We found a nice restaurant for breakfast and then had a look in a few of the gift shops.

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The airport was really busy. Clearly a popular connection stop and we were shocked to learn that the temperature was only 3 degrees outside. Crazy when Orlando had been so hot and then Las Vegas would be hot too. By 11am it was time to board our final flight of the day.

The last time Matt and I visited Vegas was in 2012, over Thanksgiving weekend. We met up with a few of Matt’s friends and partied every night, which was a lot of fun but quite crazy. So during our flight Matt asked me how we wanted to do Vegas this time around. Should we relax, go to the spa and try to bring The Bahamas to Vegas? Or should we just embrace Vegas, go with the flow and find some fun things to do to make it memorable?

I think you can guess which option we chose seeing as we started drinking at 11am…

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A bit sleepy but a couple of vodka’s soon woke us up!

The views from the plane were stunning and I got a bit snap happy, especially when I spotted the Hoover Dam! But the flight was over so quickly as it was just less than an hour from Utah!

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Salt Lake City, Utah

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The Hoover Dam

It was so nice to be greeted with pure blue skies and sunshine and once off the plane we headed straight to The Encore Hotel which is where we would be staying for the next 5 nights.

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As usual, check in in Vegas is always super busy but we were just so happy we were there and couldn’t wait to see our room and go and explore.

The receptionist was very excited that we were on our honeymoon and actually bumped us up to a suite on the 63rd floor, which was just incredible. We had a full view of the strip from our floor to ceiling windows and we could open the curtains from a button by our beds, so we could enjoy that view each morning and night.

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The view of the Strip from our room 

We quickly freshened up and then headed down the strip to Planet Hollywood Hotel, as we remembered from last time that they had the miracle mile shops and a vast range of bars and restaurants to choose from.

I love the relaxed but party vibe of Vegas, it just makes me so happy. I always feel like you can do whatever you like and no one will mind. It’s most definitely my happy place (this was my 3rd visit and we actually went back again in March of this year as part of our US West Coast Road Trip!)

I always say to Matt if I had to live anywhere else in the World it would be Vegas, but I don’t think that will ever happen!

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So amazing all lit up at night!

After a little bit of gambling and window shopping, we ended up in one of my favourite places. Blondies. It’s basically just like Hooters but the girls wear cheer leading outfits and there are way more screens around the place showing all the sports imaginable.

We noticed that they had an all you can drink for $20 offer on and were shocked when the waitress said the drinks included spirits as well as beers. So as Matt wanted to watch the football (American) we decided to find a spot to settle into for the rest of the evening.

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We decided to share the Blondies Sampler which included all of our usual American favourites – chicken tenders, buffalo chicken wings, onion rings and jalapeno poppers with a large basket of curly fries on the side.

In the end a mixture of lack of sleep and booze hit me and I was sound asleep in our huge bed by 9pm!

Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 4 – Disney’s Epcot & Hollywood Studio’s!

A mega early start but no sore heads from the night before, must have been the excitement of heading to Disney!

We got the shuttle bus from our hotel to Epcot at 8am, meaning we got there for opening, but as you can see, the queues were already pretty big!

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Epcot is split into two sections. Future World which opens with the park and World Showcase which opens at 11am. So we began the day at Future World.

First priorities were buying the biggest Minnie Mouse ears I could find and then joining the queue for Test Track. It’s quite fun designing your car whilst in the queue and within 10 minutes we were on the ride. Perks of getting to the parks early!

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When in Disney!

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We spent the rest of the morning trying to go on as many rides as possible before the queues got crazy busy. Only stopping once for a quick sit down & snack as we hadn’t eaten breakfast.

We enjoyed The Seas with Nemo & Friends as we love the film but it is best suited to the little ones. We had a leisurely look around the aquarium afterwards but didn’t bother waiting for Turtle Talk with Crush, which seems very popular with the kids.

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Space Ship Earth (located in the giant Epcot Ball) is another slow-moving ride through the history of Earth. Starting with cave men through to modern-day. A little dated but iconic, looking up at the stars at the end is my favourite bit.

Journey into Imagination with Figment, in my opinion was terrible. It is just so dated and boring. No wonder there was no queue, not even the children wanted to ride it. Hopefully they turn this into something new soon!

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Another Higgins! 😉 

I really enjoyed Living with the Land – A boat ride through all the laboratories and green houses in Epcot, finding out how Disney produce their own food. Matt however found it boring. To be honest I never realised how educational Epcot was and Matt was starting to get a bit fed up with it all. Luckily best was yet to come. As finally it was time for Soarin’ and this ride was truly amazing. You sit in what feels like a real hang glider and are raised 40 feet in the air, where you then ‘fly’ over the World’s most iconic attractions and locations. I would have loved to have gone on again, as I felt like I didn’t take it all in on the first go. But the queue was an hour-long and there was much more of Epcot to explore!

As we had done everything we wanted to do in Future World and it was nearing lunch time, we decided to head over to World Showcase. Grabbing some buffalo blue cheese popcorn for the walk, deliciously weird!

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The Epcot Food and Wine Festival was taking place while we were there, which made the park even busier than usual. Especially the World Showcase area, as this is where all the food and wine stalls are located.

I was excited to be visiting during this time as it’s quite an iconic festival and I had heard so many great things about it, but to be honest I couldn’t deal with how busy it was and adding the heat to the amount of people, I started to get a bit grouchy!

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It doesn’t look busy here (or hot!) but if I had taken a photo of either side of me, you would have seen we barely had space to walk!

We gradually made our way around half of the showcase countries (Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy & The American Adventure) popping into a few shops along the way and then finally taking a break in Japan where we had lunch reservations at Teppan Edo. It was also nice and quiet again in Japan!

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Teppan Edo was great, sitting around a Teppanyaki table the traditional waitresses took our orders and then we waited for our personal chef to arrive, to cook our dishes right in front of us.

To start we decided to share the assorted tempura and edamame and then for mains I went for Ueno which is chicken and shrimp stir fry and Matt went for the Asakusa which is steak and shrimp stir fry. All washed down with orange mojitos! Yum!

It was mesmerizing just watching the chef at work, his knife skills were incredible and the food was delicious! For dessert they kindly presented us with a slice of mango mousse cake, with a candle in and sang us a traditional Japanese song to wish us luck and happiness for our honeymoon/married life. A lovely gesture!

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I could have easily stayed here all afternoon, yummy cocktails, tasty food, great atmosphere, wonderful staff  but we had so much more to see!

Originally the plan was to spend the afternoon leisurely walking around the rest of World showcase, seeing what the festival had to offer – drinking cocktails, trying new foods, mooching around the shops and trying to get onto the new Frozen ride in Norway (the queue was always 2+ hours long!)

But after such a nice lunch (and rest!) neither of us really fancied battling the crowds again and we were so stuffed from lunch that we couldn’t even think about eating anymore food! So instead we decided to take the free Disney boat from the International Gateway in Epcot over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was nice to have a bit of a breeze and nose at Disney’s Boardwalk and other fancy hotels along the way.

When we arrived it was a lot quieter than Epcot had been which was a nice surprise. It also felt a lot smaller than all the other parks, but in a good way!

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On the boat over I had managed to get us a couple of fast passes for a few of the attractions, so to begin we made our way over to Toy Story Mania! This ride was so much fun, you travel around Andy’s Room playing carnival games all in 3D. Probably one of our favourites of the whole trip and we did get a bit competitive (Matt won this one!) Just like Soarin’ we would have loved to have gone on this one again, but the normal queue was out the door and I’m shocked I even managed to get a fast pass the first time around!

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We then watched the India Jones Stunt show, it was quite fun and interesting to see all the stunts and there was a lot of audience participation, however it started raining heavily half way through so they had to finish the show a little earlier than expected, but understandable as safety should come first.

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After the show, we found ourselves outside of Star Tours – The Adventure Continues. Matt and I aren’t Star Wars fans (if you are, you need to visit Hollywood Studios as it’s Star Wars crazy!) but as it only had a very tiny wait time, we thought we may as well give it a go. Even though it’s only a motion simulator ride it was pretty full on and a lot of fun, shocked to say I really enjoyed it. Just a shame it’s Star Wars themed 😉

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Now Matt and I love The Muppets…like really love The Muppets. So we couldn’t wait to see Muppet Vision 3D, however we needn’t have bothered with fast passes as there was no queue at all!

I’m sad to say though that I was pretty disappointed by the whole thing. The waiting room video is way too long and then the actual film itself has an annoying non Muppet character the whole way through, which doesn’t really make any sense. I loved the actual Muppets theatre though, but I feel like they need to redo the whole thing. Online I’ve seen lots of people saying similar things and not enjoying this attraction either and I’m worried that Disney will get rid of it altogether as it doesn’t seem very popular. I really hope that isn’t the case, I think it just needs some love and attention and a bit of a rethink!

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We had a look in a couple of shops including the Disney Christmas shop, where we brought some lovely ornaments for our tree!

Then finally we joined the queue for The Great Movie Ride, in the rain! I think this was probably the longest queue we joined all week, but I really wanted to experience the ride.

I enjoyed the cinema area, which is the last section you queue in before the ride begins and they show a film of great moments in movie history and all the different genres, through the years, we spent a long time watching this film as we queued for so long, but meant we learnt quite a bit!

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However we were both a little confused as to why all the film clips and things we had just watched and been told about were exactly the same things on the ride. Seemed a bit weird/silly to listen to and watch the same thing twice! I’m glad we did the ride though as it is well done, I just don’t think it would be one I would rush back to and certainly not one to queue over an hour for!

By the time we finished the ride we couldn’t believe it was dark and gone 7pm! So we made a quick dash to the boat to get back over to Epcot and were treated to Hollywood Studio’s Star Wars themed fireworks while sailing back which was a nice little bonus!

Back in Epcot and feeling a bit peckish, we found a quick service pizza window in Italy. So fuelled on a deliciously gooey pizza slice as big as my head, we walked back around World Showcase to Mexico, as we had pre-booked tickets for The Epcot Dessert Fireworks party.

(You’re allowed to eat all the yummy but naughty foods in Disney as you end up walking so much every day!)

We were pretty exhausted by now so we couldn’t wait to sit, enjoy some yummy desserts, toast our honeymoon and watch the fireworks which started at 10pm.

We had a prime viewing spot for the fireworks, overlooking the lake, with a beautiful table set up for us. But the only thing I have to moan about is the fact that they offer no seating options. We both just found this really odd, especially as they know how many people will be there as you have to pre book tickets and there wasn’t hundreds of us. Chairs or bar stools would really be welcomed and we could hear we weren’t the only ones mentioning it. After a long day at the parks everyone just wants to sit down and chill, so it was a bit annoying having to stand or sit on the floor (which I did end up doing!)

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Excuse the curly hair, I had been rained on a lot!

We couldn’t fault the party though. We made our way through the mini desserts selection which were all delicious, but my favourite was the Baklava, so yummy! And we made the most of the free drinks, not just sparkling wine, but spirits and cocktails too. The fireworks were amazing, focusing on the World Showcase they weren’t Disney themed but still just as magical and the rain managed to hold off right until the very end.

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A tiring but amazing, Disney filled day!

Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 3 – Shopping, Storms & Sports!

After a much deserved lie in, we decided to jump in the car and find a good spot for breakfast. Told you, food is always the first thing I think of!

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Our hire car

We drove with the roof down, making the most of the gorgeous Florida sunshine and after a quick online search, we ended up at Keke’s – a restaurant specialising in breakfast.

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KeKe’s seemed a popular spot which made us happy with our choice and we couldn’t believe how much was on offer with the large and varied menu.

In the end I decided on a large chocolate chip waffle with a side of banana and strawberries which was absolutely delicious and Matt went for the chocolate chip pancakes. Just check out the pancakes though, it was like a Man Vs Food challenge and our waitress found it hilarious watching to see if he could finish them all, but unfortunately he couldn’t quite.

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Keke’s is next door to The Mall at Millenia, which is huge and filled with every shop imaginable but after breakfast we decided to drive a little further to the outlets instead.

I love American Outlets as you can get such great bargains. We didn’t visit every shop as we would have been there all day, but we just checked the map to find the ones we really wanted.

I honestly couldn’t believe how cheap things were though. For example in Victoria’s Secret they were selling lip glosses for $1 each! One Dollar! In our UK stores they are currently £9 each madness!

We also popped into The Disney Store, Ralph Lauren, Sunglasses Hut, Levi, American Eagle and my absolute favourite Bath & Body Works. Seriously when is the UK going to get one of these stores? I have been obsessed with them for years and on this trip alone I managed to bring back about 10 soaps and numerous other bits and bobs, everything just smells amazing! I brought a cherry ‘Vampire Blood’ soap for Halloween which all our visitors loved and Sparkling Snow has been out since Christmas and looks and smells so lovely.

 

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Inside Bath & Body Works

 

We had just left Bath and Body Works and only had one shop left to visit when a huge thunderstorm began. We had to take cover under a shop awning as there wasn’t enough time to run back into a store without getting drenched, plus I had leather flip-flops on, not the most practical footwear to run in!

It’s crazy how quickly the weather escalated and how heavy the rain was coming down. The thunder and lightning were directly above us and was so loud! The weird thing though was it was still so hot so even though we were getting rained on we didn’t feel cold.

 

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Just a little windswept!

 

We watched some people make a run for it, either to a shop or their cars but then the rain would come down even heavier. In the end we decided to make a run for it ourselves as we had no idea how long we would be waiting there for otherwise. However running to the last shop we had a bit of a nightmare when my Bath and Body Works bag broke – silly paper bags! So we were scrambling around in the pouring rain trying to collect all the goods that had spilled everywhere. Kindly, a stranger gave us one of his bags to use after seeing us struggle. Thanks again kind man! 🙂

Shopped out and soggy we made our way back to the hotel.

We didn’t have any plans for the evening so after having a little look at our options, we decided to head back to Universal’s CityWalk. We felt like the night before we had been too tired to take it all in properly, plus Matt wanted to watch the Miami Dolphins game, so we decided to head back and find a place to eat, drink and watch the game.

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Our hotel lobby bar

Universal was a lot busier than the day before but we realised it was the start of their Halloween Horror Nights so everyone was making their way into the parks. The Horror nights look amazing if you are into that sort of thing but I think I would be super scared! I can’t even watch horror films let alone walk around feeling like I was in the middle of one! So we left them to it and made our way to NBC Sports Grill & Brew. This place is huge and has screens everywhere showing all the sport imaginable. Matt was clearly in his element! They also played amazing classic rock music which is my favourite so wasn’t all bad 😉

We got a couple of drinks and decided to order a load of sides and starters to share rather than a proper meal, as we just wanted to relax, snack, drink and watch the game. Again a lot of fried foods oops, but they are so yummy! I think in the end we went for the cheese curds, onion rings, fries, southern fried sliders and buffalo wings – always buffalo wings they are my absolute favourite!

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It was a lovely chilled evening, but I couldn’t even tell you who won the game!

More fun tomorrow.

Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 2 – Universal Studios!

Even though I had an amazing sleep my body still decided to wake me up at 6am! So I decided to go for a little explore. I wanted to check out the breakfast options, always my main priority when staying at a hotel and I also wanted to book us onto the free shuttle bus which dropped hotel guests off at some of the parks. Although we had the car, some days we decided it would be easier to use the free transportation on offer, especially if we wanted to stay at the parks all day and would be tired or wanted to have a couple of drinks.

The staff were more than happy to help me, even at that time of day! I found a couple of options for breakfast and was told we were welcome to visit the neighbouring Marriott Hotel to use their facilities and restaurants too, which was good to know.

We decided to try out Highball & Harvest for breakfast, which was a restaurant and bar area in our hotel. It offered an à la carte menu as well as the all you could eat breakfast buffet. It was pretty pricey but I guess that’s to be expected in the type of hotel we were staying at, but the food was super fresh and delicious so made up for it. Matt even finished off his breakfast with an American frosted doughnut! When in Rome….

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Even at 9am the mixture of heat and humidity was fierce! Waiting outside for the shuttle bus to collect us, I was already melting and the day hadn’t even begun.

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Such a tourist with my backpack!

We arrived at Universal Studios ready and raring to go, map in hand, our plan was to visit both parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) in one day. Some people might think we were crazy but we just didn’t have enough time to do it any other way. Due to this we upgraded our tickets to the Express tickets, which meant we could skip the queue once at each ride or show. This was actually really useful and worth the money as it meant we could do all the rides we wanted to without getting stressed or rushing around. The only attractions these tickets didn’t work for though were the Harry Potter rides.

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Phew I’m tall enough!

Now, I could easily talk about all the attractions in great detail and go through step by step every single thing we did, which is what I originally started doing when first writing this post, but it was going on forever and I just thought you would get a bit bored! So I’m going to try to condense it all as best I can and just show you a lot of photos instead!

We started the day at Universal Studios which consists of 7 themed areas. Production Central, New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and finally The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. We made our way around all these areas apart from the kidzone and went on the rides, looked in the shops and just enjoyed the atmosphere and excitement of being there. I must admit though I hate big rollercoasters which is annoying for Matt who loves all rides, so he did have to go on a few alone 😦 Sorry Matt!

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One of Matt’s favourite films – Back To The Future

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This ride was so good!

One of my favourite rides in this Park was probably Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, it’s really well done and quite funny, plus Matt and I are such big kids who love anything Minions! I also loved the Simpsons ride and the whole Simpsons area. It was pretty cool to be able to go into Moe’s for a drink, Krusty Burger for food or to the Kwik-E-Mart for gifts!

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A couple of the areas didn’t have much going on, as they were either working on new rides or had just demolished old ones. I get that they constantly need to be working on new ideas and attractions but I’m not sure how I feel about the new, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride which opens in 2017. I appreciate he’s a big deal in America but just sounds weird to me and I don’t see how it relates to Universal, also I think it’s going to be yet another 3D or 4D Ride! Personally I really miss the old school rides like Twister, Earthquake and Jaws. I really wish they would bring some of those kind of attractions back!

Now this may offend some people haha, but I am not a Harry Potter fan. I have never read the books and have only seen tiny snippets of the films if my sister, dad or Matt have had them on, I just don’t get the hype. So before we visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I must admit I wasn’t really bothered or excited about it. In all honestly I was actually annoyed when they started building the areas as I just couldn’t understand why they had to take over the Universal Parks. Why couldn’t they just build a whole new Harry Potter theme park of its own?

Vent over I promise.

As when I actually stepped foot inside HP World it really did look pretty impressive, even though I had no idea of what shops, streets, people I was looking at, I could still enjoy it and embrace the wizarding experience. Plus the rides are really good too!

 

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Trying Butter Beer – Matt was very disappointed when he realised it wasn’t real beer!

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As we had been on everything we wanted to go on and seen everything we wanted to see, we decided to take the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station over to Hogsmeade Station, located in Islands of Adventure.

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Universal’s Islands of Adventure is also split into 7 sections. Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing and finally The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

We were flagging a bit by the time we made it over to this park, so we decided that our first stop would be lunch at Mythos Restaurant. We needed time out of the heat and we just needed a sit down after all the walking! We opted for a light lunch which arrived quickly and was tasty.

Fuelled and raring to go again, we went out to explore what this park had to offer. Starting with HP Hogsmeade. Again this area was visually stunning and the main ride was full on. Not at all what I was expecting!

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Sorry Matt for making you ride alone!

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The newest attraction at I.O.A which is pretty impressive

Our favourite rides more often than not are the water rides. So by the time it got to late afternoon and we were absolutely sweltering from the heat, we decided it was time to cool off and Toon Lagoon seemed the place to go. Starting with Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which I was quite scared to go on, the reason I don’t like roller coasters is due to the drops, so when I saw the height of this log flume I panicked but Matt basically forced me to go on and I’m glad he did as I loved it, even though my face tells a different story…

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This photo will forever make me laugh!

Then we found  Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges which is a rapids ride. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much on a ride before. We got absolutely drenched through, but this was by far my favourite ride of the whole day. We even went on for a second time which we filmed on the GoPro.

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Drenched from the water rides!

We made The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man our last ride of the day as it was about 6pm and we were uncomfortable in our wet clothes. We ended up getting changed in the toilets ha, but I was just happy I was dry! I’m so glad we brought a change of clothes and shoes which we kept in our backpacks inside lockers when we were on the rides, as this meant we could then carry on the evening without having to head back to the hotel.

We then spent the evening at Universal CityWalk which is located just outside the entrances of both parks. We mooched around the shops, brought some amazing macaroons at The chocolate Emporium and then finally treated ourselves to cocktails and burgers at Hard Rock Cafe.

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The Texan: Hickory-smoked pulled pork, chipotle barbecue sauce, cheddar & Monterey Jack cheese, crispy fried jalapenos & onions all on a toasted brioche bun. Yummmm!

An amazingly fun but long day!

Love, Chloe xx

 

Honeymoon Day One – Travelling!

Ever since we booked it, I felt like an excited child counting down the sleeps until both our wedding and honeymoon.

For our honeymoon we had planned a week in Orlando, Florida, followed by a week in The Bahamas and we couldn’t wait. Neither of us had visited The Bahamas before, but I had visited Orlando once, 15 years ago! I kept wondering how much had changed or how much of it I would remember. I also wondered how it would feel, visiting as an adult with my husband rather than as a child with my family.

I was so excited for our honeymoon that I had planned our itinerary months in advance. Matt thought I was a crazy lady but for those who don’t know, Disney planning is full on! You need to plan out what days you are visiting each park and even what rides you want to go on and where you want to eat! Of course you don’t have to be this organised, but then you will end up queueing for hours for attractions and you won’t get to eat in any of the table service restaurants. Luckily Matt let me plan a crazy busy week, fitting in as much as humanly possible knowing that we had a relaxing beach week to look forward to afterwards.

For Disney Parks, you can book reservations for shows and restaurants from 180 days in advance of your trip and believe me you need to, especially for the popular places such as Be our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table and The Crystal Palace restaurants. Included with your park tickets you also have the use of FastPass+ which means you can pre book times for your favourite attractions from 30 days in advance.

I found that the best way to book all these things was to download the My Disney Experience App to my phone. You link your tickets to the app and then you can easily make selections and bookings. Then when you are actually at the parks you can keep track of ride wait times and it will tell you when your FastPass+ reservations are along with so much other stuff. Very handy and all the parks have free WiFi so no need to worry about data charges.

Universal Studios also has an app which we downloaded, however they don’t do their FastPass+ the same way and most of their restaurants you can easily book, there’s no mad rush like at Disney!

The countdown seemed slow to start with but then before we knew it the weeks were flying past, the wedding was sadly over and finally the day had come to begin our honeymoon!

We live very close to Gatwick Airport, which is a bit of a bonus and means we rarely experience that crazy holiday madness of actually getting to the airport. I still woke up like an excited 5 year old and annoyed Matt by constantly talking about our honeymoon plans and what I couldn’t wait for us to see/do/experience together, he probably couldn’t wait to get on the plane and put his headphones on!

 We purchased a Go Pro as we wanted to film on as many rides as possible and then we chilled with a late breakfast and bubbles, finally toasting the start of the next two weeks adventures! Unfortunately about half an hour before we were due to board, it was announced that our flight had been delayed by roughly 3 hours, bit annoying, however it did give us time to figure out how the Go Pro worked!
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Finally on board we had a nice flight. We had a tasty lunch, I opted for the chicken salad and we both watched a couple of films. Bad Neighbours 2 for the both of us which was OK but not as good as the first, but then when are they ever as good as the first? Then I watched Sisters, which I hoped would be really funny as it had the dream team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler however it wasn’t the best and Matt watched Money Monster with George Clooney, which he said was pretty good.

 

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On the Plane

It must have been about 5 hours into the flight when the turbulence started and I hate turbulence! I start panicking, I go clammy, I fear we are going to fall out of the sky, all the while Matt stays in the same position as he has been all along like nothing is happening. It makes me laugh as I really wish I could be the same but I can’t help but cling onto his arm as soon as the plane starts shaking. I always hope it’s just going to last a few minutes and then pass, but this time it probably lasted on/off for around an hour and at times it was so bumpy our drinks were spilling and even the cabin crew were told to sit down.

We landed in Orlando around 8pm and were treated to some huge lightning strikes on landing which, if we weren’t landing I would have freaked out about, however it looked really pretty as it fully lit up the sky and I was just happy we were almost off the plane!

We decided to hire a car for the week as we weren’t staying at a Disney or Universal resort hotel, so thought it would be the easiest way to get around and give us the freedom to explore as much of Orlando as possible. We decided to go for a Convertible Mustang, wanting to make the most of the Florida sunshine, but after collecting our luggage and making our way over to collect the car we started to worry that our luggage wouldn’t actually fit in it! After a bit of a shuffle and the bonus of me being short we managed to squeeze it all in and we could finally make our way to the hotel.
The next task was actually finding our hotel without a sat nav, as well as it being dark, driving on the wrong side of the road and both feeling pretty tired! Kindly the car hire staff printed us out the driving instructions and Matt got us to The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes.
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It was a beautiful hotel but I felt completely out of place looking dishevelled and tired in my comfy travelling clothes. But the staff were super friendly and got very excited when they realised it was our honeymoon. We made our way up to the 12th floor and both crashed onto our huge king sized bed exhausted but excited for the next day’s adventure.

Love, Chloe xx

A Surprise Birthday Trip to Iceland – Part 1!

It’s my birthday this week, and as I have been thinking about previous celebrations, I thought I would share with you one of the best, if not THE BEST birthday’s I’ve had.. so far 😉

I had wanted to visit Iceland for as long as I can remember. Not my normal choice of holiday as I’m usually all about the sun, sea, sand, cocktails, you get the picture. But Iceland just looked so beautiful and interesting. I’m also obsessed with spa’s so was dying to float around in the Blue Lagoon and imagined being pulled along by huskies while searching for a hint of the Northern Lights. It all just seemed so magical.

I must of made a million hints to Matt and would always say Iceland as the next place I wanted to visit whenever holidays were discussed with friends. Everyone probably got fed up of me talking about it!

But 2 years ago Matt surprised me and I mean really surprised me. It was a few days before my birthday and we were sat eating dinner like any normal night, when he gave me a postcard where he had written, pack your bags we are off to Iceland in the morning! Excited was an understatement and less than 24 hours later we had landed.

The airport was eerily quiet, the runway had been cleared of snow and when we finally ventured outside we were hit with the ice cold air. On our drive to Reykjavík I thought we had landed on another planet! We were the only car on the roads for miles and the landscape was cratered looking with areas of ice and black volcanic soil dotted around with the view of glaciers or volcanoes in the distance. It really felt like we had landed on Mars or the Moon, but it was stunning and unlike anything I had seen before.

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We were told that 99% of the population live in Urban areas of which 60% live in the capital of Reykjavík which is why so much of Iceland is left in it’s natural beauty.

But this was a birthday trip not a Geography trip so onto the fun stuff!

We checked into Hotel Alda late afternoon, and decided to explore the main streets of Reykjavík, especially as we needed to buy a few more layers or even snow suits as it really was freezing cold!! We walked a long the waterfront and found a lovely and cosy, traditional Icelandic restaurant for dinner.

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You can’t take me anywhere! A slide inside a shop!

 

We had to get up super early the next morning, as we had a full day of exploring to do. Check out the size of the car!

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Check out that view!

We had booked onto a day tour and after a 45 min drive, our first stop was the Þingvellir or Thingvellir National Park. It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, you can see lots of the large cracks that have been caused by Earthquakes! To its south lies the largest natural lake in Iceland. It was a beautiful, but yet again frosty, way to start the morning and watch the sunrise.

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From here we jumped back into the car to warm up and made our way down the deserted roads to Gullfoss.

Gullfoss which means Golden Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and we could see why, it is absolutely stunning!

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We would have loved to have watched the waterfall for longer but the spray was like ice and along with the bitterly cold winds we couldn’t stay outside for any longer. So as we had some free time in Gullfoss we decided to check out the large shop/cafe/restaurant/visitor centre. It was actually really interesting and nice to grab a bowl of soup and cup of tea to warm up!

I’m sorry to keep going on about the cold weather but seriously if you are planning on visiting Iceland take plenty of layers, sensible shoes (lots of snow, ice, uneven surfaces), hats, gloves, scarfs and if you have them ski jackets or the biggest coats you own. You will need them!

Now as mentioned above one of the things I really wanted to do in Iceland was go dog/husky sledding, but unfortunately we were a little too early in the season and there wasn’t enough snow on the lower ground to do this. However we weren’t sad for long as we were told we could go snowmobiling in the higher glaciers instead.

Feeling both nervous and excited we started the 2 hour drive to Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier. The drive was an experience in itself as we started the journey in our tour jeep which slowly made it’s way up the mountains, the roads getting icier, the drops getting higher until we weren’t allowed to drive any more and so we all had to get into a new vehicle. Imagine a cross between a snowplough and a hummer. It was huge and could basically drive through any amount of snow or ice, the journey was a super bumpy one and we had some dicey moments but we finally made it to the glacier and witnessed some incredible views.

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We were given snowsuits and helmets to wear and then we were off on our one hour snowmobile adventure over the glaciers.

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The snow was pretty deep and I may of fallen flat on my face in front of the whole group, oops!

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Beautiful sunset in the snow

The hour flew by but it was so much fun and as the sun was starting to set we got back into our jeep ready for the final stop of the tour, the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir has been mostly inactive for many years, Strokkur however continues to erupt every 5–10 minutes. It was fun to watch and wait, trying to guess when it would erupt and then making me jump every time it did!

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Rudolph noses! 

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Matt getting up close 

I couldn’t get over how beautiful the sky was! Just stunning.

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After a nice hot shower back at the hotel to warm up, we had another evening in Reykjavík and found a more modern restaurant for dinner, which did the best cocktails!

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Finishing the night with a walk to Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur). It is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in Iceland and is beautifully Gothic looking.

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A beautiful end to our time in Reykjavík.

Love Chloe xx