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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10 August 2016

6 Things No One Tells You About Cancun

The America Part 2 Series

After my sister visited LA and Vegas on our America Part 2 travelling trip (read about it here and here), we decided to head to Cancun. OLE!

We'd actually never been to Mexico before and always wanted to visit Cancun as we'd been told by different friends how breathtakingly beautiful it is.

However, these friends failed to mention a few home truths. Read on for details:

1) The bars and clubs are full of 18-year-olds.

I don't have anything against 18-year-olds or anything, but I'm almost 26 now. When I go out on nights out, I expect there to be a mix of ages. I don't want to feel like the kids have Grandma watching over them at the club. What I didn't realise about Cancun is that it's full of American underagers as the legal age to drink in America is 21, but it's 18 in Mexico. HELLO, ROWDY TEENAGERS WHO HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO HANDLE ALCOHOL.

Cancun has a decent nightlife, with the ultimate highlight being the Coco Bongos club, but at times it did feel a bit like I was chaperoning a school disco. (NO, SERIOUSLY - who plays Cha Cha Slide in a bar?!)

2) Tourists tend to stay in the fancypants hotels.

If you're not an 18-year-old coming to Cancun to get drunk for the first time, you're a middle-ager paying thousands to stay in one of the five star all-inclusive hotels. There honestly doesn't seem to be much of an in-between (unless you're me and my sister, staying in more of a budget hotel because you're travelling). YES, WE'RE COOL.

The friends who recommended Cancun to us all stayed in the five star hotels, which would explain why they had an overall marginally better experience of the place. Perhaps.

3) The locals like to stare.

We met some people on a night out in LA who wouldn't stop going on about how local Mexicans like to stare at tourists. I thought they were joking, or at least exaggerating - turns out NOT SO MUCH. We experienced this for the first time heading onto the beach on the first day. We felt that uncomfortable that we left after half an hour and spent the rest of the days sunning ourselves around our hotel pool.

I'm probably generalising massively here but, yeah, watch out for that.

4) The food is as cheap as chips...

...And it's seriously better than you'd ever imagine. I wasn't sure what to expect with how much things would cost in Cancun, but I was honestly pleasantly surprised. The exchange rate from pounds to pesos is better than dollars to pesos at the moment, so we found that food was less dear than we imagined (which meant that we could have more of it)! #winning

I'd always wanted to have an authentic Mexican meal as I'm a big lover of fajitas, quesadillas and enchiladas - and, trust me, it was worth the wait! SO MUCH YUM.

5) The sea really is that ridiculously blue.

I remember seeing my friend's photos when she visited Cancun not too long ago. She had a couple of photos on the beach and the backdrop looked insane, like it had been painted. The sea, in particular, just looked the most amazing colour.

In real life, it was just as blue - SO blue, in fact, that it looked like it'd been applied with its own personal Instagram filter.

I'd definitely have to say that the beaches in Cancun are some of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. A TREAT FOR THE EYES.

6) The tequila in Mexico is ten times stronger than in any other country.

Obviously with Mexico being the home of tequila, we just had to sample the drink both in cocktail and shot form. The mistake that we made was sampling it in shot form all night one night, on top of other drinks.

For the first time in our lives, let's just say that one of us was sick and the other one had to clean it up. #SISTERGOALS


All in all, we really enjoyed our week in Cancun but we feel like we have put it to bed now. It's somewhere that I would consider going back to when I'm older and married, to perhaps stay in one of the five star hotels and do nothing for a week, but otherwise I wouldn't be all that fussed.

(Did someone say travel snob?!)








Next stop: Miami.

(Have you been to Cancun before? What did you think? Katie-xo)

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3 August 2016

10 Tips For Surviving EDC Weekend in Vegas...

...when you're not personally going to EDC.

The America Part 2 Series

Before we rocked up to Vegas from LA (read all about what we got up to in LA the second time around here), neither my sister or I had ever heard of EDC.

EDC, short for Electric Daisy Carnival, is one of the BIGGEST electronic music festivals in the world. The main event is held in Vegas every year, bringing in hundreds of thousands of people.

Last time, we were in Vegas for 3 nights in January. Seen as though this time around was a peak summer weekend in June, we expected a lot more tourists... But we didn't quite expect the amount that there was!

At various times walking down the strip throughout the weekend, you could hardly move for people. It was the annoying type of busy where you're dodging dawdlers like obstacles and having to mutter 'EXCUSE ME' like 5 times per minute. On the flip side, it made for a good atmosphere, as everyone was happy, up for a laugh and ready to PART-AY.

Here's my tips for surviving Vegas during EDC if you're not actually one of the festival go-ers:

1) Expect a shortage of taxis/Ubers.

Most taxi/Uber drivers are very reluctant to work during the EDC weekend in fear of horror stories such as people vomiting all over their car and behaving drunk and disorderly. Luckily, we still managed to get Ubers everywhere but there was often a surcharge due to limited availability. #GOODBYEMONEY

2) Be prepared to party excessively on the streets.

People openly drink down the Strip in Vegas in general, but we felt that this was taken to another level during EDC! I've never seen so many wasted youngsters being loud and lairy with a drink in their hand openly roaming the streets before. It can get a little annoying if you're sober, but it can also be great! For example, there may be an instance where you haven't had time to down all your alcohol during pre-drinks and you have to leave for the night out. Instead having to waste any, you can simply carry on drinking outside on the journey to the club without having to worry about getting into trouble. WINNING.

3) Accept that you will have to queue for a table at least half an hour in every restaurant.

This includes the so-called fast food places. Like Maccy D's. E'rybody drinking during the day means that e'rybody needs alcohol munchies at the same time. Apparently. Patience is a necessity.

4) Acknowledge that you will get weird looks when people realise you're not in town for EDC.

The amount of people that would just look at us like 'EH' when we said 'no we're not actually going to EDC, we're just here for 3 nights as part of our travelling trip that coincidentally seems to be at the same time as EDC' was RIDICULOUS. Like soz I'd never heard of it before and we're gatecrashing your weekend but let's all just hold hands, dance around the fire and sing Kum Ba Yah because we're all here for the same reason - to drink, party and have a good time. AMEN, brother.

5) Realise that the clubs are still going to be packed at the weekend even though people are heading to EDC.

Nic and I were stupid enough to think that the clubs might not be AS busy as they usually are on a standard weekend in Vegas because of EDC. SILLY RABBITS. We totally forgot about the locals. Hello, big queues to get in, big queues for the toilets and big queues for the bar. This brings me nicely onto number 6.

6) Make sure you have a promoter for the clubs.

Sometimes you meet them on the Strip, sometimes you are recommended to them by friends and sometimes you even just stumble across them on social media - but you need a promoter to help you navigate the Vegas nightlife. That's for damn sure! These amazing human beings will get you into the best clubs for free, allow you to jump the queues and even offer you free drinks upon entry.

7) Expect to be pleasantly surprised with the acts at pre-EDC events.

It was during the pre-EDC party at INTRIGUE @ Wynn that we were lucky enough to experience of the most awesomest DJ's I've ever seen or heard IN MY LIFE (if awesomest is a word). Step forward, Marshmello! We had the best time watching his set and fell a little bit in love, so much so that we are keeping a beady eye on his upcoming schedule so we can potentially see him again... AND THIS TIME WE WILL PAY.

8) Don't let the crowds put you off visiting the tourist attractions.

Yes, everywhere will be busy - but there's certain things you must do in Vegas whether there's a crowd or not. You have to visit the famous 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' sign, go to a casino and gamble, spend a day at Fremont Street, watch the Bellagio fountain show and see a show (to name a few). Why?! BECAUSE YOU JUST HAVE TO, BRO! We went to see Britney this time around and it was such a laugh! #wheninVegas

9) Stay in a fancypants hotel for the night.

Staying somewhere swanky for the night will get you away from some of the younger EDC crowd, as not everyone can afford to stay in one of the five stars on the Strip. INCLUDING US. I mean, we are budget travellers! However, we spent the first two nights slumming it in the Travelodge so we could splash out on the Bellagio for the third night for a bit of a different experience (to say the least!) And MAN, was it worth it.

10) Watch out for those infamous Las Vegas heatwaves.

As soon as we arrived in Vegas, the Uber driver who picked us up from the airport warned us that a heatwave was about to strike and we should be prepared for temperatures up to 45 degrees celsius. I'm sorry, WHAT?! Us Britons can only deal with 30 degrees tops and then we get too hot and stressy. FORTY FIVE DEGREES CELSIUS - are you trying to melt me, sun?!

Apparently this is quite standard for a peak summertime weekend in June, but luckily the temperature only reached 38 degrees whilst we were there (which was hot enough for us)! Drinking lots of water is key - especially when partying as we all know how dehydrating alcohol is.

I really don't know how the locals cope with heat like that but I'm glad we don't have to worry about it in little ol' England where the temperature barely reaches 26 degrees most summers.


All in all, we had a blast in Vegas this time around and I think the fact that we were there the same time as EDC made it so much more fun! We definitely wouldn't let it stop us from going around the same time again, we'd just be a lot better prepared having already had the experience.

Vegas, I LOVE YOU!













Next stop: Cancun.

To be continued...


(Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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29 July 2016

What To Do When Re-Visiting LA

The America Part 2 Series

Hey, guys! I'm back!

I'm at home in Wetherby following the most INCREDIBLE six weeks in America and I'm hoping to kill the post-vacay blues by sharing bits of my trip with y'all.

(Do you think I've got the American lingo down yet?!)

Similarly to how I blogged The America Series after my five week trip last January, I'm thinking I'll write one post on each city that I visited and then if there's anything else I want to throw on here I can do so as and when.

Y'ALL WITH ME?! Alrighty then, let's get going.

When we visited LA last year, it was the first time we'd been since we were younger with our parents so we naturally had to the touristy stuff including all the theme parks. (You can find details of my previous trip here.)

This time around, we tried to cover the bits that we didn't manage to fit in during the two weeks last time and then some! We also ended up repeating a few things because #wheninLA.

Here are my top picks for what to do when re-visiting the city of angels:

1) Walk down Hollywood Boulevard. Again!

Yes, we've done it many times - but the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre and shopping district down Hollywood Boulevard NEVER gets old. There's always that one star on the pavement that we forgot to photograph previously, a new event or premiere happening at one of the theatres or additional merchandise to buy!


2) Go to a different sports game.

During our last trip, we went to see the LA Lakers team play basketball at The Staples Centre (which was AWESOME)! This time around, we thought we'd see what all the fuss was about and go see the LA Dodgers play a baseball game. It's always good to learn about a different sport, especially because we don't have baseball in the UK, and IMO the atmosphere at any American sports game is always electric.



3) Hike up to the Griffith Observatory.

We actually ran out of time to cover this during the last trip, therefore it was at the top of our list this time around. The hike is interesting in itself - it was approximately two hours from our hotel uphill with the road steadily getting steeper and steeper. Add the sun and heat into the mix and we had a bit of a challenge on our hands, to say the least! Luckily the views on the way up and at the top make it all worthwhile. You get breathtaking views not just of the Hollywood sign, but the whole of LA - a must do!



4) Have day drinks in downtown LA.

We probably wouldn't have done this if it wasn't for the fact that our friend Jeff (who we met during America Part 1) was visiting from Wilmington and suggested we all went for drinks downtown. There are some amazing rooftop bars (The Standard and The Perch, to name a couple) with impressive views of the skyscrapers as well as the most delicious cocktails. It ended up being one of the best days ever! #thanksforthememories Jeff.



5) Eat a fancy meal on Rodeo Drive.

We were lucky that our parents decided to tag onto the end of our LA leg this time around, so they gave us the opportunities to do things that we just couldn't afford to do if we were by ourselves. One of the best things we did as a four was have a fancypants meal on Rodeo Drive. We went to the 208 restaurant. Yes, it was expensive (it was going to be when we found out Kim Kardashian had only eaten there the previous week) but they had some of the best food I've ever tasted in my life. My Seafood Linguine entree was spot on!



6) Explore Santa Monica.

During our previous trip, we covered Santa Monica Pier and the beach (two of my favourite spots in LA) which we were more than happy to do again. However, this time we mixed it up a bit and actually had more of walk around Santa Monica. There's some brilliant shopping on Third Avenue, as well as cute cafes and restaurants, so it was nice to just explore and get lost a little!


7) Walk down Melrose Avenue.

We had actually been recommended this the last time we were in LA but, again, ran out of time. Melrose Avenue is one of the best areas for luxury shopping in LA so it is gorgeous, clean and well-kept with some nice cafes and restaurants. A personal favourite eatery of ours is the Urth Cafe with the green umbrellas - their Eggs Royale breakfast, with poached eggs, smoked salmon and english breakfast muffin doused in hollandaise sauce, is to die for!


8) Have cocktails outside the Beverly Wilshire.

This is a fab spot for cocktails as it looks upon Rodeo Drive - perfect for people watching! (And we do love to people watch!) They also do the most gorgeous Strawberry Mojito. (My mouth is drooling just thinking about it!) We would certainly recommend.



We did a few more bits and bobs throughout the ten days we were in LA, but the above are definitely the highlights.

LA is an incredible city - it has such a magical feel to it. I would never tire of it and could live out there in a heartbeat, but I was looking forward to exploring other cities on the rest of the trip that we had never been to before.

However, first we had to head over to the Vegas! (We just couldn't resist pitstopping at Vegas on this trip, even though we had three nights there on the previous trip. PARTY!)

To be continued...


(Have you been to LA before and done anything on my list? What did you think to it? Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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