11 September 2016

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!

Saying goodbye, disappearing and leaving home for a while is becoming a bit of a habit for me of late.

Remember when I said my sister and I were determined to do more travelling following America Part 2 (which you can read all about here)? Well - that time is now upon us.

We're actually leaving for Singapore tomorrow! (Wahoo!) Then we're hitting up Melbourne and Sydney before pitstopping in Bali on the way back to be home in time for our cousin's wedding mid-October.

We were originally going to travel around Thailand but, literally the day before we were going to book it, the news broke of the 12 bombing blasts in 24 hours. You could argue that it could happen anywhere in the world right now, given the state of things, and you cannot let it stop you from living your life. However, we thought we should perhaps let the dust settle and simply postpone this trip for the time being, knowing how much our parents would worry if we were out there whilst the country was on high alert.

So, instead, we decided that I would take Nic to Singapore and Sydney (as she's never been to either) and also tick off two more places on my bucket list in the form of Melbourne and Bali. (Squeel!)

I'm super excited, although I forgot how much of a challenge it is to pack a backpack for an extended period of time away. My first backpacking trip was only in 2014, and that time I had to pack for over 3 months rather than just one, but it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then.

I've managed to pack it though - and pack it well (in my humble opinion)! It's crazy to think that in a matter of hours, I will be back on a plane again.

I'm a little bit gutted that I've run out of time to blog about what an amazing past couple of weeks I've had - Leeds Fest, my 26th birthday, the American coming to visit and Edinburgh to name a few highlights! But I will try to find opportunities to blog while I'm away, or as soon as I get back.

I have to say that I am literally having the time of my life at the moment since I left my job to travel some more. I've never felt so happy, so strong (both physically and mentally) and so comfortable within myself.

I wish I could travel internationally for a career because I love it and I would be so good at it!

Bring on the next trip and, who knows, if there's money leftover - we might be off again! (Here's hoping!)

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!







(Have you been to Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney or Bali before?! What did you think? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

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7 September 2016

A Wonderful Wedding Weekend in Ireland

The penultimate weekend in July, following our America Part 2 travelling trip (which you can read about here), my sister and I headed to Ireland for our friend’s wedding on a four night extravaganza.

We barely had time to recover from America before we had to fly out to Dublin from Leeds Bradford airport. I, for one, was definitely still on Chicago time – therefore the wake up time of 5.30am for our 8am flight was somewhat of a KILLER.

However, we managed to drag our asses to the airport and arrived in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city after less than a couple of hours on the plane, loaded with coffee and eager to explore a country we’d never been to before.

Dublin, at times, reminded me of Amsterdam; the buildings overlooking the river, the cute little bridges, the backstreets – it took me back to last November when my sister and I visited the capital city of The Netherlands for a whistle stop tour in three days.


Dublin is a great city to just explore and get lost in – which we did numerous times when poking around the backstreets (I’m usually good at navigation, with a little help of Google Maps, but I was severely jetlagged – OKAY?!)


The city is also very well known for its cute little pubs, often with live music, and being the home of a very famous beer. That’s right, you guessed it – GUINNESS.

My sister and I are not really fans of beer (this may link back to one crazy night in Boston last January where we drank beer until we felt sick and then I actually was sick #WEAK) but we just had to try some Guinness while we were in Dublin. OBVS.


We were also keen to try out the nightlife, after hearing from numerous friends and relatives how freakin’ amazing it is. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it out on our first night. Sure we drank, we acted merry, we met some characters… But oh, did I mention that we were SEVERELY JETLAGGED?! I felt like my head was going to explode at any moment.

Instead we had a nice tea, a bit of a nightcap and then were promptly in bed by 10pm – because, you know, we’re ROCKSTARS.

The next day we headed to Charlestown via Bus Eireann, where the wedding would take place the day after, which took approximately three hours. It was a quite a pleasant and scenic journey as I was able to just stare out of the window at the stunning Irish countryside the entire time.


Once we arrived in Charlestown, we were greeted by the sister of the bride and taken to our B&B where we would be staying for the night. It was here we met up with another friend of ours and her boyfriend and then headed out for some pub grub - NOM. We then ended up in the pub where we were to meet the rest of the wedding party for a pre-wedding celebratory drink.

This ONE drink led to another, then another, then ANOTHER - until OOPS well would you look at the time, we really must be heading home before we end up too pissed and hungover for the wedding. Plus I was, you know, STILL DAMN JETLAGGED.

The next day (the wedding day) we headed to the hairdressers in Charlestown where the bridal party were having their hairs done and then we had ours done before heading back to the B&B to finish off getting ready.

My hairdresser did this really cool thing with my hair where she curled it first of all, then put half of it up but she sort of tucked bits under and knotted it to do it. OBSERVE:


Once we were back at the B&B, it was time to put on my pretty powder blue dress, get properly dolled up and pretend I was Cinderella for the day.



The actual wedding ceremony was at St James’ Church in Charlestown and it was so beautiful – everything from the service to the church decorations to the outfits of the people involved.



Afterwards, the ceremony was followed up with the reception at Mount Falcon in Ballina – the most gorgeous Victorian manor house on the banks of River Moy.


We had a lovely three course dinner followed by drinks and dancing and, in true wedding form, the night got messier and messier as time went on. HELLO, BABY GUINNESSES AND JAGERBOMBS AND ALL OF THE SHOTS.

The next day we forced ourselves to breakfast with aching heads, stomachs and livers before heading back to Dublin on a three hour return coach journey.

We had one night left in Dublin before we had to get up for an early flight back to Leeds, but – SHOCK HORROR – we were too tired and hungover from the weekend’s celebrations to be able to make it out that night.

Instead, we slept. We slept a lot. And BOY, did it feel good.

The following morning, we headed back to Leeds both feeling quite content that we’d had the most wonderful weekend celebrating our friend’s wedding, as well as an amazing first experience of Ireland.

I would not be opposed to going back to Ireland to explore more of it in the future.

But, for now, MISCHIEF MANAGED.


(Thank you to the newly Mrs Nicola Johnstone for inviting us to your wedding! Congratulations to you and Rob, once again, and we were so happy to be able to celebrate your special day with you!

Have you been to Ireland before? What did you think to it? Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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31 August 2016

8 Reasons Why I Love Chicago

The America Part 2 Series

Following LA, Vegas, Cancun, Miami and Orlando, it was time for my sister and I to make our final stop on our America Part 2 travelling trip. That' right, it was time for Chi-town.

We have two friends who are both Air Hostesses that fly to Chicago with BA on a regular basis. They told us that the city was a MUST DO. We sort of laughed it off thinking, yeah we're sure it'll be okay but it's not gonna be a PATCH on some of the other places we've visited.

MAN, WE WERE WRONG.

Chicago has vastly become come one of my all time favourite American cities for a number of reasons. Read on for details.

1) The buildings.

For starters, the skyscrapers, architecture and general skyline are extremely impressive giving the look and feel of New York City. (AND WHO DOESN'T LOVE NYC?!)


2) Willis Tower.

Speaking of this stunning skyline, there is an observation deck at the top of the Willis Tower (one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world) which will give you the most PERFECT view of the city.

There is even a glass ledge that protrudes out the side of the building. You can stand, or even sit down, on this - which is TRIPPY AS HELL, I might add - but captures the best photographs.



3) The food.

You can get every cuisine imaginable in this city, but - whatever you do - you have to try the famous deep-dish pizza. This is a standard pizza cooked in a deep dish pan with about 2984 layers. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration - but bear in mind you can hardly get through a slice of this pizza, never mind the whole thing. IT'S YUM THOUGH.

There's also some cute little cafes, including The Original Pancake House, that does every kind of pancake breakfast you can think of. #GetInMyBelly


4) The Bean.

Situated in Millenium Park and perhaps one of the most touristic attractions of Chicago, the Bean is definitely worth a visit.

Basically it's a giant steel sculpture, called 'Cloud Gate', but nicknamed due to the shape being like - you guessed it - A BEAN.

It's definitely cool to see if you like art as it has an interesting reflection of the skyscrapers surrounding it. You can also walk directly under it and use the shape to play with your reflection for some pretty unique photos!



5) Oak Street Beach.

Chicago is the only city I have been to so far in this world with a beach that just comes out of nowhere when you're making your way through the skyscrapers.

OH HEY, SAND - didn't see you there.

It's so awesome that you can have your photo taken overlooking a beautiful beach, on the edge of Lake Michigan, with the Chicago skyline directly in the background.

COR, IT AIN'T HALF GORGEOUS.


6) The shopping.

Basically you can get anything you want, whether luxury goods or high street bargains, on Michigan Avenue. If you want to walk the length of it, you can expect to be shopping all day long.

It's GREAT to have everything down one street - makes life SIMPLES.


7) Navy Pier.

Another reason why I love Chicago is Navy Pier. It's is a bit like Santa Monica Pier in LA where you can find rides, bars and restaurants all on one strip at the water's edge. It's always busy and bustlin', no matter what time of day, and has a great view of the city.

#THATSKYLINETHOUGH




8) The sunsets.

Finally, Chicago has some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. We stayed in a hotel at the heart of the city, called Inn of Chicago, which actually has a rooftop terrace. This was the most perfect viewing platform for when the sun was going down at the end of each day.


Chicago, YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL.

I fell in love with you and all the little things you have going for you. Truly, madly, deeply.

I really hope to be back in you someday so we can continue our love affair.

But, for now - it's been emotional.


(This concludes the America Part 2 series of posts - I hope you have enjoyed reading about each instalment as much as I have enjoyed living it! Look out for more travel posts upcoming on the blog and let me know your thoughts! Thanks for all your support. Katie-xo)

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24 August 2016

Orlando and the Magic of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The America Part 2 Series

I apologise now as this post is going to be extremely Harry Potter heavy.

Once we'd done LA, Vegas, Cancun and Miami on our America Part 2 trip, it was time for my sister and I to head to Orlando.

We'd visited Orlando before as wee younglings when our parents brought us but we had ZERO memories of it so, naturally, we were looking forward to making new ones that we'd remember.

We arrived on 4th July so headed to Downtown Orlando on our first night to check out the Independence Day celebrations. It was quite cute as people had gathered around the lake with their deckchairs, picnic blankets and snacks to watch the fireworks.

We found a classic All American hot dog stand so followed suit by stretching out on the grass with our root beers and hot dogs in hand.

And MAN can the Americans put on a firework display! It was 20 minutes of awesomeness.



Speaking of amazing fireworks, we went to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for the day during the week we were there because IT'S DISNEY. YOU JUST HAVE TO. #WhenInOrlando

We may have visited the Anaheim version in California last January but, for me, Disneyland never gets old. It never gets tiresome and I would enjoy it whether I was 6, 14, 21, 40 or 58 years old.

The rides, the music, the atmosphere, the parades - it's ALL good fun and great for re-living your youth.

The fireworks at the end of the day are truly spectacular as well - images and videos are projected onto Cinderella's castle with a narrative whilst music from the films is played.



For me, though, nothing could beat Universal this time. And that's because I'm the biggest fan of a little somethin' somethin' called Harry Potter.

Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart, not just because of how good the story is or the fact the JK Rowling is a genius. It holds a special place in my heart because my Grams and I got into it together.

She was the one who watched all the films with me and read all the books after I'd finished them. She loved it as much as I did and it was the one thing that we bonded over that no one else in the family ever really 'got'.

Since her passing, it's become even more sentimental to me. We even played some of the film score at her funeral.

That's why I knew I had to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one day - for the both of us.

Firstly we visited Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios park. The amount of detail that has gone into that set is insane. It's literally like stepping into one of the films and everything is just so cleverly done.

SPOILER ALERT: I liked that the entrance is hidden away exactly like you see in the Philosophers Stone where the bricks of the wall break away to reveal it.

I'm not going to lie, I might have shed a little tear when I first stepped foot into Diagon Alley - not just because it's amazingly magical, but because I felt this overwhelming sensation that, in that moment, my Grams was there with me.

I went on the Gringotts ride and we popped in all the shops. We had some food in the Leaky Cauldron and even tried some butterbeer. #LivingItUp

It was truly incredible and something that all the Harry Potter fans on this earth should experience.





We then went to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure on a separate day which also didn't disappoint.

SPOILER ALERT: You step in the village and the first thing you see is the Hogwarts Express on your right, where you can have your photo taken with the conductor, then as you proceed through you have all the shops, the Three Broomsticks, the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster, the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster and then finally you end up at the Hogwarts Castle.

The Hogwarts Castle looks exactly like it does in the film, with the BEST RIDE EVER inside. You join Harry, Ron and Hermione on an adventure through Hogwarts. Parts of it are done as a simulator, and parts of it are real, but together it feels like you're flying as you follow Harry around on his broomstick.

That ride was my favourite thing about the whole Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the week in Orlando in general.

We had the best time! And I know our Grams was there, living it all through us.






After burning the candle at both ends in Orlando, spending hours on our feet at the theme parks, we then proceeded to the final stop of the America Part 2 trip. Chicago COME AT ME, BRO!


(Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What did you think? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

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17 August 2016

5 Highlights of Miami Beach

The America Part 2 Series

After having a fabulous time exploring LA, partying hard in Vegas and sunning ourselves in Cancun, it was time to head to Miami. (Read all about previous parts of the trip here, here and here.)

Miami Beach is quite simply stunning - a perfect location to vay-cay as there's so much going for it. Sunshine, palm trees and the beach - what more could a gal ask for?!

My highlights are as follows.

1) South Beach.

Stretching down the entire east coast of Miami Beach, the soft white sand and crystal clear blue waters of South Beach are what makes it one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever laid eyes on.

During the day, you can expect it to be packed with people all nationalities, ages, shapes and sizes up for letting their hair down and having a good time. Be prepared for one big PARTY on the beach!



2) Ocean Drive.

This is the road that has one side covered in palm trees overlooking South Beach and the other side lined with an array of cafes, bars and restaurants. Oh and did I mention that the cafes, bars and restaurants are AWESOME in terms of food, drink and atmosphere? The only thing is, be prepared to pay for the location.

Miami Beach gobbled up our money during our one week stay, mainly because our hotel was situated right next to Ocean Drive so we went there to fuel up every day.

NOTE TO SELF: take more money if we ever go back. Miami Beach is not the type of place you can budget travel.



3) Shopping.

Whether you shop 'til you drop in the luxury boutiques down Collins Avenue or fill your boots in the high street stores at Lincoln Road's outdoor mall, Miami Beach offers the best variety of shopping.

After spending so much on food down Ocean Drive on a day to day basis, we swore we would cut back on luxuries such as new clothes. But OMG there's a FOREVER 21 and SHIT we don't have one near us back in England so COME AT ME YOU LITTLE HUN, I will spend a ridiculous amount of dollars buying stuff I don't need from you.

Being avid Kardashian fans, we also felt the need to pop in Dash (their boutique) and OOPS look what happened:



#ShoppingQueens

4) Nightlife.

Miami Beach is quite similar to Vegas in terms of nightclub exclusivity. A gal needs a promoter, yo. (That's the second time I've said 'gal' in this blog post - do I think I'm from Essex or something?!)

I'd even go so far as to say that Miami is MORE exclusive than Vegas. Its ridiculously chauvinistic but if you don't have the right 'look', then girl you ain't getting in.

Some promoters actually ask to see photos of you before they put you on their guestlist for the club, just to check you meet their standards. YEAH, I KNOW.

If you manage to get yourself in with the right promoter, they will sort every night out for you. We got to go to LIV nightclub and see Steve Aoki DJ whilst we were there. We also got to go to Justin Bieber's PURPOSE world tour official after-party at STORY nightclub where Jonathan Cheban, Kourtney Kardashian and Bieber himself were partying. #LIFEGOALS

It was AWESOME.

In fact, the nightlife is truly awesome in general.



5) Duck Tours.

My parents had actually been holiday to Miami a couple of weeks prior to arrival and recommended we do one of these 'duck tours'.

It's basically a tour in a duck boat, so you get to see Miami Beach by land and by water.

We paid something like $30 and had a very pleasant afternoon on a duck boat, soaking up the gorgeous scenery whilst our tour guide performed what can only be described as a one-man-show. It was such a laugh, as well as being educational, and definitely something I would recommend to anyone about to visit Miami Beach for the first time.



Overall we had such a fun time during our week in Miami Beach and it's definitely somewhere I'd consider going back to (but only if I had a bucket full of money saved up)!

Next stop: Orlando.


(Have you ever been to Miami Beach? What did you think? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

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