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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10 August 2016

5 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, SEVERAL 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 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.

4) 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.

5) 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. 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 feel like I've checked it off.








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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