Hornblower San Francisco

Dinner, Dancing and Dazzling Vistas with Hornblower Cruises San Francisco

I always think that one of the best ways to see a city is from a different perspective – from up high at the top of the Shard in London; from a gondola exploring Venice’s canals; or from across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

In San Francisco, where the water surrounds the city and so many of the main sights and attractions are around the Bay, hopping on a boat and taking in the views from the water seemed like the thing to do.  So that’s exactly what we did when Hornblower Cruises invited us on board for an evening of champagne, dinner and dancing.

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road trip to grand canyon

A Quirky Road Trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

As much as I hated leaving the fabulous city of Las Vegas behind, it was onto our next adventure.  The 4 and a half hour drive to the Grand Canyon was pretty smooth sailing – aside from Mr Ayla having a slight panic at having to drive out of the busy city, in an automatic, on the other side of the road, amidst 4 lanes of crazy Vegas traffic.  After Googling which pedal was which (don’t judge – we drive manuals at home and neither of us know much about cars!) we were on our way with our ultimate road trip album blaring out of the CD player.

Despite being quite a long drive there were plenty of places to stop off along the way and the Hoover Dam was the first place on our itinerary.  We’d left Vegas a little later than we’d intended (possibly due to too many cocktails the night before) so by the time we made the short 45 minute drive there, it was already packed full of tourists.  We decided not to do a tour but instead just drove across the dam itself and ogled at the size of it before taking a few snaps and carrying on with the journey.

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Carmel California

Carmel-by-the-Sea: The Prettiest Little Town in California

Having lived in London my whole life I’ve always been a city girl, craving the flurry of people and the buzz of city life.  Never have I imagined myself living anywhere quiet or calm, away from the tall skyscrapers, the hum of traffic and the fast-paced way of life.  Not until I visited Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Surrounded by the seaside town of Monterey Bay, the mountainous wineries and one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, this picturesque village on the coast of California is charm personified.  The pretty streets, quaint cottages and ocean views made me feel as if we’d driven straight into the pages of a story book and its quirky laws and restrictions – such as no postal addresses, high heels or fast food restaurants – just make this town even more quirky and endearing.

Being such a pretty town it was only right that we also stay in the prettiest of accommodations and the Colonial Terrace was just that.  As soon as we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the glittering blue sea just a 2 minute walk from the doorstep.  A difficult feature not to notice when the waves and white sand are calling you towards them, but first we went to check in and unwind in the comfort of our room.

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5 Reasons To Love Fabulous Las Vegas

Las Vegas was never somewhere that I particularly wanted to visit.  With no culture, not a lot of history, and no major sights to see, it seemed to be a place to just gamble and party.  And while I do like a good party, it isn’t the sort of thing I plan my travels around.

So I couldn’t have been any more surprised when I found myself absolutely loving the city almost as soon as we arrived.  I loved it so much that it was one of my favourite parts of our American adventure and I’m already desperate to go back.

From the minute our taxi hit the Strip, I had my eager face pressed up against the window, oohing and aahing at all the bright lights and enormous hotels dominating the skyline, people spilling out onto the sidewalks watching the majestic displays of entertainment on the streets.

There really is so much more to Sin City than I gave it credit for.  While it might not be to everyone’s taste, the fact that I ended up in complete wonderment of the place just goes to show that it certainly shouldn’t be written off.  I could enthusiastically chatter on about this place all day but here are just a few of the many reasons why Las Vegas won me over so easily.

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Essentials for an American road trip

10 Essentials for an American Road Trip

There is nothing quite like the feeling of setting out in your car on an epic road trip, the back seat piled with bags, blankets and snacks, Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way” playing in the background, and your favourite travel buddy sitting beside you.  Whether we’re exploring somewhere completely new and having to learn the rules of the road in a different country, or just going on a short weekend break closer to home, road trips are one of my favourite ways to travel.  Being able to stop wherever and whenever we want, having no obligations or time limits, and just enjoying the freedom of an open road.

Our great American adventure is only a day off now (eeek!!), and while we may not have actually been on our American road trip yet, we have been on a fair few in the past, from roadtrippin’ South Africa’s scenic Garden Route to driving around the pretty Cotswolds.

So these are my 10 essentials that are needed for a great road trip, with a few that will give us those extra American feels as we’re cruising along Route 66.

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Travel blogger planning a trip

A Surprise Adventure

It’s been five long torturous months of having to keep this secret to myself and now I can finally share it.  Mr Ayla turned 30 yesterday and I’d planned a little surprise for his birthday.  There may actually be a few of you (okay possibly a lot of you) who already know about this surprise – I may not have been able to share it with my husband but the excitement was too much not to share with anyone at all!

Mr Ayla woke up on his birthday morning to be greeted with a treasure hunt leading him to a selection of clues around the house and finally to his big surprise…

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Hiking in the Cinque Terre

My Favourite Travel Memories from 2015

As 2015 comes to an end and we look back on a year of fabulous adventures, and onto 2016 which will hopefully be filled with many more, I know you’re already thinking “oh no, not another New Year round up post!”.  So okay, I may be doing a total cliche here but I figured that this year has been a pretty awesome one so I simply couldn’t resist.  Plus, Mr Ayla is adamantly refusing to go on as many trips next year (oops my finger must have accidently slipped and hit enter to book those flights!!) so all I can do is look back on some of my favourite memories from this year.

Despite having a full time job I’ve managed to squeeze in plenty of adventures, from long haul relaxing holidays to short city breaks closer to home; trips with both family and friends; sightseeing holidays, hiking trips, beach breaks and everything in between.  While we may not have anything planned for next year (yet) these are some of my favourite travel memories from 2015, and some of these places have very quickly worked their way to the top of my favourite ever destinations.

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Drinks around the world

Drinking Our Way Around The World

It’s no secret that I love a fruity cocktail. In fact most of my family and friends will forever relate the Piña Colada song to me because every time a cocktail, pineapple, or just a drink in general is mentioned, I start singing the tune – with Hawaiian style dance moves included of course. Yes, I like Piña Colada.

As it’s almost Christmas and I’m sure the celebrations are already in full swing, I thought I would add to the festivities by sharing some of the best and most popular drinks from around the world that we’ve come across on our travels. They’re not all cocktails – I promise – and they’re not all alcoholic. Unfortunately, Piña Colada isn’t on this list (sigh) because I’ve not yet been to Puerto Rico, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying what the rest of the world has to offer.

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Harry Potter locations

10 of the Best Harry Potter Locations Around the World

It’s safe to say that I’m a little bit of a Harry Potter geek.  Okay, I’m a lot of a Harry Potter geek.  I’ve read the books countless times, I can quote all the films, I have a wardrobe full of HP clothes, I’ve been sorted into my house on Pottermore (I got Hufflepuff.  I wasn’t happy), and I love playing with my wand.  No that isn’t a euphemism, that’s just how much of a geek I am that I actually have a magic wand.  And it’s obviously the Elder Wand because I love you Dumbley-dore.

If I’ve already completely lost you and you’re not a fellow Potterhead then I’m afraid we can’t be friends and I will use said wand against you.  But for you Muggles who do often dream of living in the Harry Potter fantasy world, there are plenty of places you can visit to pretend it’s real (it totally is real – I got my Hogwarts acceptance letter and everything).

So for all you Potterheads out there, here are some of the best locations around the world that really bring the stories we all know and love to life.

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Reasons to visit New Orleans

Wanderlusting Over New Orleans

As someone who is ridiculously crazy about travel, it’s not surprising that I always have some far flung destination floating around my head, whether it’s thinking back on memories from somewhere I’ve fallen in love with or daydreaming about a new place I would love to explore. Reading so many other travel blogs about people’s adventures around the world is fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. Fascinating because oh my goodness I want to go there, and infuriating because oh my goodness I want to go there!!

The US has never really been high on my list of places to explore, mainly because I prefer countries with as different a culture and traditions to us as possible.  But lately I just can’t seem to get New Orleans out of my head.  This Louisiana city, known for its vibrant nightlife, live music scene and rich mix of cultures is like nowhere else in the US and the more I see and read about it, the more I desperately want to visit.  Writing about it really isn’t helping but what the hell!  These are just a few of the many reasons why I am wanderlusting so hard over this city right now.

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