Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Music City of Nashville

The America Series

This is the third post in the America Series! If you’ve missed the first or second instalment, you can catch up on them here and here.

After mine and my sister’s three crazy nights in the one and only Las Vegas, it was time to check out Music City (otherwise known as NASHVILLE)!

Recognised for its country music and love of live bands, Nashville was on my personal list of places I needed to visit before I die. It has produced Kings of Leon (my favourite band) as well as Johnny Cash (my favourite country music artist) and Taylor Swift (my guilty pleasure).

Also, a couple of my friends had been there before me and both said how fun it was.

This was another one of those situations where Nic (my sister) had heard of Nashville but really wasn’t bothered about going. Like with the Grand Canyon, I managed to change her mind!

What you don’t realise about Nashville is that live music plays in the bars on Broadway all day every day. Acts start as early as 10am and just keep on coming, right up until 2am.

There are so many different bars to choose from and each of them offers something a little bit different. We went out on the Saturday night, as our five nights in Nashville fell over a weekend, and had one of the best nights out we've ever had!

That was, in large part, due to a bunch of amazingly awesome people that we met from Wisconsin who were visiting for the weekend. But it was also down to the atmosphere in those bars… It was just so electric, like one big party, and everybody was so happy!

Nic and I made the mistake of not going out on the Sunday night as well, which we deeply regret to this day, as we heard Sunday night is as good as Saturday night in Nashville.

But we wanted to feel fresh for the Country Music Hall of Fame the next morning which, if you’re ever in Nashville, is worth visiting!

Also worth visiting is this fabulous little restaurant/cafĂ© called The Pancake Pantry near the University. As you can probably tell from the name, it does all different types of pancakes and the food is absolutely delicious! It’s such a good idea and was great to visit on a hangover.

Just FYI Nashvillians are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever come across and they seriously do have THE BEST ACCENT. The southern drawl is just a joy to my ears, especially on a good looking man!

I’m so glad we made the trip to Nashville and I definitely want to go back again someday, if only for one more weekend on Broadway!

(Have you been to Nashville before? What did you think? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Vegas, Baby!

The America Series

This is part two in the America series, telling the story of mine and my sister's five week trip around the USA.

After our first stop in Los Angeles, we flew to the one and only Las Vegas in Nevada.

We had a bit of trouble with the taxi transportation from the airport to our hotel. If you’ve never been to Vegas, I urge you to be careful with the taxi drivers there. Apparently if your taxi driver asks if it’s your first time in Vegas, you’re supposed to say no (even if that’s a lie). If you admit to them that it’s your first time then they see dollar signs. They will take you to your hotel the longest way possible and might even pretend they’ve got lost to raise the meter figure as high as possible. This happened to us and we had to file an official complaint with the company, so please make sure you watch yourselves!

Anyway after that initial mishap, we could fully relax and start to enjoy our Vegas experience. Upon first impressions, I was pleasantly surprised with the Strip. I’d heard so many people talk about how tacky it is and how it’s not even worth visiting, but I didn’t think that at all. In fact, quite the opposite – it’s so expensive and the clubs are super exclusive to get into to.

We did check out a couple of clubs while we were there after we were lucky enough to be in touch with one of the best promoters – we were given guestlist entry, free drinks and sometimes even VIP access! The clubs were very impressive but just not my scene – there were a ton of pretentious posers in suits throwing money about. Also what is with the price of drinks? $18 for two jagerbombs – are you kidding me?! It was a fun change of scenery but give me a dive bar with friendly, down-to-earth people and $3.50 cider any day!

It’s strange as well because the clubs are part of the hotel resorts. All of the hotels on the Strip exude luxury and glamour, unless you stay in the Travelodge (like us cool kids did)!

I really liked the Bellagio and the famous fountain show. The Venetian was also extraordinary - it has a shopping centre inside of it set out and decorated like the streets of Venice. Then there’s the New York New York hotel which has a rollercoaster running through it (madness)!

My favourite thing that we did though was the day trip to the Hoover Dam followed by the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Now, that was pretty special! The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is as spectacular as they say. My sister wasn’t that fussed about going on the day (we’d both been out the night before and were really tired and hungover – plus the pickup time was 6.15am) but she absolutely loved it! We couldn’t recommend it enough, so please go and see it if you have the opportunity.

We only spent three nights in the crazy city of Las Vegas but we really enjoyed our time there. We did think we needed an extra night though, because we lost a full day to the Grand Canyon trip, but that would be enough (unless you want to spend ridiculous amounts of money)!

All in all, it was a great trip and definitely worth the visit!

 (Have you been to Vegas before? What did you think? Thanks so much for reading and please let me know what you think below! Katie-xo)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

LA Magic

The America Series

If you read my blog post from yesterday, you’ll know that I recently spent five weeks travelling the USA with my sister.

The first stop on our trip just had to be Los Angeles.

We’d been there before, a few years previously, with our parents – and fell absolutely, inexplicably, irrevocably in love with the place.

Once we’d stepped foot off our plane at LAX on 5th January, this past love reignited almost immediately. I cannot describe the way that I feel when I’m in LA – all I can say is that there’s some kind of magic in the air. I turn into a five year old kid again and feel more excited than I’ve ever felt before.

There’s nothing better than cruising down Sunset Boulevard with the sunshine on your face and the Hollywood breeze through your hair. (FYI, LA gets sunshine 360 days of the year or something ridiculous.) Or being up in the hills, surrounded by the most beautiful houses you’ve ever seen in your life, looking down on the fast paced life of the city.

There are beaches to explore, there are theme parks, there’s Downtown – I think that’s why I like it so much, because of the variety. I also like the vast scale of the city.

If you ever visit LA, there’s some things that you just have to do or see. My top picks are:

1. The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Yes you will look like a complete tourist, but you have to have your photo taken with at least three different celebrity stars on the Walk of Fame - it’s like some unwritten rule! You also have to spend some time walking up and down the pavements, popping into the shops and visiting the famous theatres (the Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre) whilst trying not to get attacked by tour operators trying to sell you things. Dodging these people is a skill!

2. Santa Monica Beach and Pier.

Santa Monica is actually one of my favourite spots in LA (if not my absolute favourite)! The beach stretches on for miles and it’s incredibly stunning. There are always some really talented buskers on the Pier as well, so it’s just nice to grab a coffee, find a bench and absorb the music and atmosphere whilst overlooking one of the prettiest sights of the city.

3. Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Universal Studios is a great day out made easily accessible by the Metro system. There are some awesome rides to explore; these include new ventures in the form of Transformers and Despicable Me, as well as the classics such as Jurassic Park and The Mummy Returns. Then you have to go on the traditional Studio Tour, of course, where you get a sneak peek of past and current film sets.

4. Beverly Hills Celebrity Homes Tour and Rodeo Drive.

There are a few different companies that provide this type of tour, but the best one to do it with is most definitely Starline. With Starline you can be reassured that you’re seeing real, authentic celebrity houses and not being fed some cock-and-bull story. This is a fabulous tour where you get to see some unbelievably amazing houses (and sometimes the celebrities themselves)! You also get to drive down the seriously impressive Rodeo Drive, where all the designer shops are (if only I could afford to shop there!)

5. Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is just down the coast from Santa Monica Beach and is often a bit less crowded as the sand stretch is vaster. However, it has more characters as it’s known as the ‘hipster’ beach. There are a lot of skaters and people selling on stalls - you can pick up quite a few quirky bargains on a good day. People come to Venice mostly to shop and check out a completely different vibe to Santa Monica.

6. Disneyland in Anaheim.

It doesn’t matter if you’re four, or twenty four (!), Disneyland is still a must do for all the family when you come to LA. It’s a little bit out of the way though, so easier to get to if you rent a car. We actually rode the bus - it took over a couple of hours each way, which was fairly exhausting! We don’t regret it though as Disneyland is magical and worth all of the time, money and effort.

7. Malibu.

Malibu is another part of the city, in addition to Beverly Hills, where the celebrities like to set up shop! After visiting there, it’s easy to see why. We actually went on another Celebrity Homes Tour with Starline – but you can drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica and do it yourself, if you’d prefer, as it’s not too far away. The Malibu beaches are gorgeous and it just seems like such a pleasant place to live as most of the houses are on the sea front! It’s definitely worth a visit.

8. The Hollywood Sign.

Whether you just view it from the shopping centre on the Walk of Fame, or make the trip to the Griffith Observatory, you have to take a photo of the famous Hollywood sign. We went to Griffith the last time we were in LA with our parents, but we really wanted to go again - unfortunately we ran out of time though. It’s definitely worth it if you have time because, not only are you able to get a bit more up close and personal with the sign, but you also get a great view of the city.

There were other things my sister and I did on our trip that we thought were must-do’s – but the main majority of people may not agree. A few examples include: go to a Lakers basketball game, visit Madame Tussauds on the Walk of Fame and celeb spot at the Golden Globes.

You have to tailor your trip based on the time of year that you visit and the goings-on, whilst also taking into consideration your time and budgetary limits.

Since the last time I went, I’ve always said that LA is one of my favourite places in the world. I stand by that. I would love to live there at some point in my life, for a temporary period, to be able to explore it even further. Here’s to someday!

(Have you been to LA before? Did you do any of the things mentioned in this post? Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Welcome Back

Happy New Year, all!

You may be wondering why on earth I'm wishing you a Happy New Year in February. Well, the reason is simple: I haven't blogged since 2014 (which feels extremely strange to say).

This is because I spent my January and half of February in the wonderful country that is the USA, on a five week travelling trip with my sister.

I chose not to blog while I was out there because I wanted to focus my time on making memories rather than documenting them. However I am back in England now and ready to share my experiences with you once more!

I apologise for being a bit MIA this year so far but I'm hoping to get cracking on the series of America posts as from today.

I really hope you enjoy reading them!

Thank you for being patient with me and God Bless America! 

(Have you had a good 2015 so far? What's been your favourite part so far? Katie-xo)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014!

2014 has been turbulent to say the least!

I suffered a major loss in January which made the first few months particularly difficult.

I lived away from my family and friends and worked in a job that just paid the bills (but also met some fantastic people who picked me up whenever I was down).

Then I finally plucked up the courage to pack it in, move back up North and embark upon the most amazing backpacking adventure for the last 3 months of the year.

I'm looking forward to another trip of a lifetime in 2015 and building a career where I live to work, not work to live.

To all my friends, old and new, whenever you are in the world: I wish you all a Happy New Year and I can't wait for us to make some more incredible memories together!


Monday, 22 December 2014

Saturated Sydney and the End of our Aussie Adventure

The Travelling Series

We travelled down the east coast from Byron Bay on an overnight bus to get to Sydney. 

As our stay in Byron got cut short, we had over one week to spend in the famous Australian city. Therefore we just about had time to do all of the typical touristy things!

We went to Bondi Beach which was lovely, however I remember thinking that there were so many posers on it! People were parading around in skimpy swimwear thinking they were the best things since sliced bread and this was a little off-putting, if I'm honest. 

I absolutely loved the bridge, harbour and - of course - the Opera House. It was super impressive and exceeded all of my expectations.

Other backpackers recommended that we also visit Manly, a suburb in Sydney, with a nice beach. It was fun but the best thing about it is the ferry ride there and back as it has amazing views of the city.

Sydney itself was okay but I actually preferred Brisbane, which some people may be shocked at. I liked how Brisbane was a lot more compact and easier to get around, with all the shops on one street. Sydney is so spread out and the shopping areas are a little disjointed. Plus Brisbane seemed cleaner and less busy. Sydney reminded me a bit of London; there were crowds of people everywhere and a lot of rushing around.

I enjoyed Sydney but I wish we had the time and money to have been able to make it to Melbourne, as we have been told numerous times that this is the best city in Australia. But I'm happy that we managed to do what we did and make it home in one piece on 9th December.

All in all, our three month travelling trip has been incredible. I'm so glad I followed a dream and did it - it's opened my eyes a lot more and given me perspective on my life back home. 

I've realised how lucky I am to come from a wealthy country with prospects and a good quality of life. I appreciate the things I have a whole lot more now and will try not to take anything for granted in the future. 

I've also been so lucky to meet so many great people from all over the world. I'll forever be thankful to my international friends and I hope we see each other again soon!

People ask me if I've changed and I tend to say 'same same, but different'. (Anyone who's ever been to Bangkok will understand that!) I'm still the same person as I was before but it's my ideals that have altered quite significantly, as well as my outlook and reflection on life.

What's next for me? Well, I have some very exciting news: my travels aren't over yet.

To be continued... 


P.S - How amazing is this lego Christmas tree in the heart of Sydney?! A very Merry Christmas to you all! 

P.P.S - And a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Brisbane and the Beauty that is Byron Bay

The Travelling Series

Whilst travelling around, a lot of backpackers complained about Brisbane and how it's just another city and there isn't much to do. However, when we arrived, we found it a refreshing change to be back in a big city again with more going on than just a beach. 

Brisbane is quite clean and feels fairly modern. All the shops are in one place on Queens Street and there are also some super shiny malls which reminded me of Singapore. There's an arts and culture section across the river which was fun to explore, as well as a lagoon. 

My favourite thing that we did while we were there is take the thirty minute bus ride out of town to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This is a bit like a mini zoo with a focus on koalas and other Australian wildlife, such as kangaroos and dingoes.

Whilst we were there we were able to get up close and personal with the animals, from stroking koalas to feeding the kangaroos. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big kid at heart and I absolutely love the zoo, so this was an amazing day for me!

Another thing that I loved about Brisbane was the Christmas lights, decorations and music playing around the city. It's the first time I'd actually felt Christmassy since we'd been away - as it's difficult to get into the spirit in 30 degree heat - and I really enjoyed the festive atmosphere. 

After Brisbane we travelled to Byron Bay, another beach town famous for surfing. It's slightly bigger than Airlie and has a bit more going on. 

Main Beach is beautiful but the weather wasn't great while we were there - I think we managed a couple of half days sunbathing on the sand and that's about it. 

I really liked Byron but it was 'schoolies' week while we were there; this is when Australia's 18-year-olds break up from school/college and have a two week bender to celebrate. There were a lot of drunken idiots about and it actually cut our trip short because we wanted to stay for five nights but there was only accommodation available for three. 

I'm glad we got the chance to go though as we had a lot of fun there (when it wasn't raining)!

Then it was time to head to the place that we'd both been waiting for: Sydney. 


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