22 November 2016

Preparing for Winter in Wisconsin

As I hinted at the end of my previous post, my travels aren't quite done yet! 

I'm on the verge of heading to America - AGAIN! I know, I might as well live there, right?! (If only I could get the visa!)

Nic and I had a personal scare in our family back in October when we returned from our last lot of travelling (read about said travelling here, here, here and here) so we recently decided YOLO, let's milk it good and proper and ended up booking an impromptu trip to Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November. (You know, casually, AS YOU DO!)

A lot of people probably won't understand our decision, but we figure it is very rare in life where we are both in the exact same position, living in our parents' home with no commitments after both coming out of long term relationships, therefore why the heck not have some more fun together in one of the top partying cities in the world?! The money we saved from our previous jobs hasn't yet run out and we are honestly having the time of our lives, so why ON EARTH would we want that to end?! 

It's no secret that after Christmas, early next year, the travelling period of my life will be over. I intend to travel in the future but only one week away here and there in between working and building my career. Basically I have to make the most of this travelling period while I can... And this is exactly why, after spending 5 nights in Vegas, I have decided to head solo to Wisconsin for 2 weeks to visit Nathan. (For more details on who the bloody hell Nathan is, read this post about when he visited the UK at the end of the summer.)

Nathan and I have become very close over the last few months and I'm looking forward to being in a brand new state, one that I probably wouldn't have thought to visit otherwise, playing tourist around his hometown and getting to the core of what it's like to temporarily live with a Wisconsinite in America (SQUEEL)!

Of course, Wisconsin is known for its brutally cold winters; being closer to the east coast of America, they get a lot of ice and snow.

It dawned on me the other day that I'm nowhere near prepared for this kind of cold in December. I desperately needed to get a padded, insulating coat and winter walking boots - and FAST - and that's exactly what I did.

This dark navy puffer jacket with faux fur lined hood is so snugly and it fits like a glove. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it and I knew it was perfect for the freezing temperatures I would have to endure in Wisco. I chose the dark navy colour as it looks practically black and will go with E'RYTHANG!

Dark Navy Puffer Coat - Topshop - £70

Then my dear Uncle John helped me find these kick-ass women's walking boots; their full leather exterior means that they are extreme water and weather proof. They have sturdy grips on the bottom as well as an insulating internal lining which means my tootsies will be kept nice and TOASTY outdoors.

Karrimor Ladies Walking Boots - Sports Direct - £89.99 reduced to £39 (find them on Amazon HERE)

Now that I'm all kitted out with a new coat boots, I just need to make sure I pack lots of layers and comfy knits!

This is totally going to contradict my packing for Vegas, which will consist of lighter layers, as it's currently late teens/early twenties temperature-wise over thurrr. (Wahoo! Bring back the summer!)

But y'know what, I feel like I'm a packing pro now! I have mad skillz, yo - so LET'S DO THIS!

I'm very much looking forward to this trip as it's a little bit different than usual. I also have to do TWO solo flights which is going to be a bit of a challenge for me. But, wish me luck, I will undoubtedly have a blast and will be blogging about my journey every step of the way! 

Stay tuned, my lovelies!

(Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)


17 November 2016

8 Must Do's When In Bali

The Asia/Australia Travelling Series

Following Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney, it was time for my sister and I to head to our fourth and final destination: Bali.

This was the place I'd been waiting for, having already visited Singapore and Australia previously. When I went on my first travelling trip back in 2014, Bali was all anyone could talk to me about during the South East Asia leg. It was 'Bali this' and 'Bali that' - so much so that I vowed there and then that I would someday venture to Bali in my lifetime.

WELL, it turns out I ended up venturing to Bali a little sooner than I thought... And, trust me when I say, it's worth the hype!

Bali is beautiful, no matter which area you visit and which way you look at it. I was lucky enough to be there for six nights/seven days so I got to see different parts of the island.

These are my 8 must do's when in Bali:

1) Walk along Kuta Beach.

One thing I love about beaches in Asia is just how different they are compared to anywhere else in the world. Instead of thick stretches of fine, white sand, you get the complete opposite (that's thin stretches of heavy, golden sand for anyone who needs it spelling out to them)! :)

You head through the trees and greenery from the road, see a tiny bit of sand and then it's like BOOM hello there, sea! It just kind of sneaks up on you.

But, just because the beaches are different, doesn't mean they're any less GORGEOUS! *Hearts in the eyes emoji*

2) Stay in a cool hotel in Kuta.

As mentioned previously in my Singapore post, your money goes a long way in Asia. You can splash out on a nice three star hotel in Bali that would only pay for you a dorm bed in a hostel in England.

Some of the accommodation is quite quirky too, like where we stayed in Kuta. Ida Hotel is made up of a series of bungalows, which meant we got our very own bungalow complete with a porch for thirty quid a night. #BARGAIN #TOTESADORBS

3) Visit Tegenungan Waterfall.

My sister and I had read about this waterfall before we actually arrived in Bali. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful on the island therefore, naturally, we had to see it. Nic was exceptionally excited as she'd never seen a waterfall IRL before, whereas I had already visited some in Thailand and New Zealand.

Tegenungan didn't disappoint! We got some pretty cool photos; however, the struggle to get them was REAL. Why don't YOU try walking on slippery, sharp rocks to get to the centre of a waterfall pool - where the current is so strong it's pulling you in different directions - and then, when you attempt to stand still and pose for your photographer, it feels like your legs might buckle any moment! IT'S A SKILL, I TELL THEE. (Totally worth it though.)

4) Travel to Ubud.

We actually did a day tour to Tegenungan Waterfall that finished up in Ubud so we could visit the Royal Palace and the famous markets. Ubud is just as charming as Kuta, but perhaps slightly less touristy.

It's good to have a walk around in Ubud, pop in and out of the cafes and grab yourself some bargains (and it probs won't cost you more than a tenner)!

5) Eat plenty of Nasi Goreng.

Ah, Nasi Goreng... The Indonesian meal of champions! Admittedly, I hadn't tried Indonesian food prior to visiting Bali, so I was a bit of a beginner in that sense. However, by the end of our week there, I was fully converted with a particular addiction to Nasi Goreng (Indonesia's version of chicken fried rice or noodles). OM NOM NOM.

6) Go to Sky Garden's All You Can Eat buffet.

Speaking of food, Nic and I were looking for a place online where we could grab a bite and a few drinks when Sky Garden popped up. According the website, we could go to an All You Can Eat buffet with an All You Can Drink bar from 5-9pm for around £6. Yes, you read that right - SIX POUNDS!

So went there, we did... And eat ourselves silly, we did... And drink ourselves into a stupor, we did. (Have I turned into Yoda with this sudden paraphrasing?!)

After the buffet, Sky Garden turns into a club; put it this way, it was that AWESOME that we went back there two nights later. #YOLO

7) Stay in a luxury villa in Seminyak.

Kuta is the well known backpacker bit of Bali, whereas Seminyak is known for its luxury. I suggested to Nic that we stay in both Kuta and Seminyak during our time in Bali, so we could experience both sides of the coin.

In Seminyak, we stayed at the most amazing place I think I've ever stayed in. It was a luxurious one-bedroom villa with our own private pool, kitchen and lounge area, as well as bedroom and ensuite. There was a pond feature at the bottom of the stairs complete with FISH - yes, actual FISH - and our own sunbeds for lounging around on ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY.

It was truly FABULOUS and, at £100 a night, a complete BARGAIN! Alam Warna villas, we absolutely love you!

8) Watch the sunset from Ku De Ta.

Ku De Ta is an upmarket restaurant and bar which was down the road from our villa. It's right on the beach and has it's own pool and sunbeds facing out to sea, which makes it an ideal spot to watch the sun go down.

The cocktails are lush and I bet if we'd had the chance to eat there, I think the food would be too! (It certainly looked amazing!)

Ku De Ta = a must do! It's also great for people watching as a lot of rich folk tend to go there. Well, a lot of rich folk and nosy backpackers I guess, like us!

All in all, Bali was incredible. The whole travelling trip was incredible. I have some unbelievable memories that I will treasure forever and ever, and my sister and I share a special bond because of said memories.

Anyone who's thinking about backpacking and hasn't done it yet, I urge you to travel. Just go. Just do it. Yes, it's expensive but the experiences are invaluable. Between you and me, I have now spent thousands of pounds on my four trips (Asia/New Zealand/Australia 2014, America 2015, America 2016 and Asia/Australia 2016) but I have no regrets. I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

In a few months time, my travels will be over and I will have to come back down to reality with an almighty big THUD.

But, for now, I am having the time of my life. If I had all of the money in the world, I would travel forever. It's so fulfilling. Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fill your soul.

Writing this, I have the post-travelling blues so my sister and I had better hurry up and book our next trip!

Stay tuned...

(Thanks for reading! Katie-xo)

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12 November 2016

4 Reasons Sydney Take Two Was Better Than Sydney Take One

The Asia/Australia Travelling Series

After five nights in Singapore and one week in Melbourne (which you can read about here and here), it was time to mosey onto Sydney.

I'd visited Sydney before in 2014 and, even though I enjoyed it, I thought it was quite overrated. I found once I'd been to Circular Quay and seen the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, it was just like any other city. You can read the full extent of my initial thoughts here.

Looking back, I actually think I was rather harsh on Sydney; it definitely has a lot more going for it than I initially realised.

Here are the reasons why Sydney take two was better than Sydney take one:

1) I discovered the Opera Bar.

Yes, of course I walked past the Opera Bar upon my last visit to Sydney. It's hard not to - it's right in front of the Opera House where there are prime opportunities for photos!

However, last time around, my ex and I didn't actually get a drink in there. We took one look at the menu, saw the mammoth prices and (being budget backpackers) ran off screaming in the other direction.

This time around, I thought my sister and I should treat ourselves. #YOLO! We picked the cheapest drink on the menu, a sparkling rose wine called Innocent Bystander, expecting it to taste of piss but it was actually SUPER NICE. So nice, in fact, that we went back to the Opera Bar for a second time later on in the week so we could have another! (Cheeky!)

Excellent views of the Opera House where we could take photos, sit out in the sunshine and sip our lovely, cheap Innocent Bystanders?! Opera Bar, you are a WINNER!

2) I experienced Coogee Beach as well as Bondi Beach.

Last time around, I just went to Bondi. With its fine, white sand and deep blue waters, it was - and still remains - awesome!

But, this time around, we were also told about Coogee (which is a little bit further down the coast) that I thought would be cool to check out.

It's smaller with less tourists so it is quieter. Plus the actual town is quite quaint.

It was good to experience two beaches this time instead of just the one that every man and his dog goes to. Coogee, you are so cute and I LIKE YOU!

3) I went to Taronga Zoo.

Don't ask me what I was thinking the first time around, skipping the zoo. Was I on something?! It's a well known fact that Katie Davies loves the zoo. I've always enjoyed the zoo and believe you're never too old to go to the zoo.

Anyway, I came to my senses this time around and made Nic come with me to Taronga. Not only is the zoo pretty awesome with some of my favourite animals (GIRAFFES, I'm looking at you), but it also has spectacular views of the city skyline including the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

It's GREAT and I've no idea why we didn't go to Taronga back in 2014. But it doesn't matter now because MISTAKE = RECTIFIED.

4) I was with my sister...

...and, most importantly, I didn't have a giant stick up my arse.

This is not at all meant as a big 'F YOU' to my ex, but I genuinely believe who you travel with affects your general experience.

In 2014, my ex and I visited Sydney for a week at the end of a three month backpacking trip. By this point, I was tired, I was smelly and I was ready for home.

It's no secret that my relationship was already breaking down at that point, and we stopped 'doing the fun stuff' like going out drinking on a night together. We popped in our hostel bar a couple of times, but we didn't manage a big night out in Sydney - which I always regretted.

Travelling with my sister, who is currently in the same position as me with the same wants and wishes, meant that we could go out in Sydney this time around and let our hair down like I always wanted to.

There was one night where we spent a good few hours bar-hopping around Darling Harbour, drinking bucket-loads and causing chaos with our English accents - and it was honestly one of the best nights out I've ever had.

All in all, I genuinely feel I had a much better experience in Sydney during round two. I said at the end of round one that I wouldn't feel the need to return to Sydney as I'd covered it all, but I was clearly lying to myself because I found new things to do during round two!

It was a fantastic week in a great city and, even though I wouldn't be interested in returning, I would never say never.

Next and final stop: Bali.

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

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8 November 2016

6 Reasons Why I Prefer Melbourne to Sydney

The Asia/Australia Travelling Series

As I first revealed in this post back in September, the second stop of our Asia/Australia trip after Singapore (which you can read about here) would be Melbourne.

I visited Australia for the first time back in 2014 and did the typical touristy east coast route from Cairns down to Sydney. I really regretted not extending this trip to Melbourne at the time as practically everybody I met along the way told me how Melbourne was the best city to go to in Oz and how I would really be missing out by not going there.

Ever since this 2014 trip, it had been on my bucket list. Then, as soon as the notion of this next lot of travels was first discussed by my sister and I and Australia was mentioned, I just knew I had to throw Melbourne into the mix.

At the end of September, almost two years on from my first time in Oz, my dream of being able to visit Melbourne became a reality.

These are the reasons why Melbourne is my favourite city in Oz and truly kicks Sydney's behind:

1) The city looks and feels amazing.

Have you SEEN the Melbourne skyline?! It's INSANE.

I think I find the city prettier than Sydney because it has the river cutting directly through the centre, which means that there's skyscrapers overlooking it either side. If you sit out on the river behind CBD's Flinders Station, you have the perfect view of Southbank; and if you sit out on the river at the edge of Southbank, you have the perfect view of the rest of the CBD. It's so lovely and charming down there with shops, bars and buskers aplenty. Then you've got the beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens only a stone's throw away.

The city also generally feels like aspects of places you've visited before; it's so homely. When I first walked through it's streets, I think I described it as a cross between Chicago, Auckland, Wellington and Charlotte. IT'S JUST AWESOME, okay?!

2) The mix of people.

Everyone who's been to Sydney CBD knows that there's a lot of people constantly rushing around the pavements (a bit like London) and it often feels overcrowded.

Melbourne is super chilled in comparison. No one seems to be in a rush anywhere (even the business people dressed in suits) and the streets are generally a little quieter.

Also the people we came across in Melbourne were so sweet, they were generally interested in us; like the Baristas we bought our coffee from in the morning who wanted to know what we were doing travelling-wise and the Shop Assistant that helped us buy gifts for our loved ones (or should I say OURSELVES, you know how it is) who wanted to know our life stories.

The Melbourne locals are so friendly, probably because the citizens are made up of people from all around the world. Out of all the places in Australia, Melbourne is the most popular to emigrate to (must be because Melbourne has been voted the number one city to live in out of all the cities in the world)! I can totally see it now.

3) It has cool suburbs.

From alternative Fitzroy to the hipster feel of St Kilda, Melbourne has some pretty cool suburbs surrounding its CBD.

We visited St. Kilda during an overcast day which probably wasn't the greatest idea for beach photos. Usually the sand is super golden, not slushy and rained on like we experienced. However, this little town still oozes charm, even in the crap weather, and is a backpacker favourite for the beach, shops and nightlife.

The shops I'm talking about in particular are the cake shops. There's a whole row of them where you can find every cake variety imaginable - a must do (or should I say MUST EAT) if you're ever in the area. We had chocolate fudge cake and it was to DIE for.

Furthermore, there's Luna Park in St Kilda which is one of the oldest theme parks in Australia. We didn't go in, but it's just fun to have your photo taken in front of the entrance as it has quite a circus-themed look to it!

4) The night life is better.

Okay so I've only been on one night out in Melbourne and one night out in Sydney during our trip, but Melbourne won HANDS DOWN.

It must be something to do with the mix of folks in the city and prettier surroundings, right?! ACTUALLY NO, it was because the bars we went to had an awesome atmosphere.

Plus we drank more in Melbourne. (Oops.)

5) The Great Ocean Road and the Apostles are a couple of hours drive away.

For those who haven't heard of the Great Ocean Road, it's exactly what it says on the tin: a road at the coast running alongside the ocean... AND IT'S GREAT!

There's a lot of beaches on the way that you can stop off and look at, as well as gorgeous generic scenery looking out to sea.

Next to the Great Ocean Road, on the edge of Port Campbell National Park, are the Twelve Apostles - the famous limestone rocks in the middle of the ocean that have slowly detached from nearby cliffs over time (although don't try to count twelve because there are, in fact, only seven remaining). BIT MISLEADING, to say the least!

Regardless, the SEVEN Apostles are definitely a sight to behold and have vastly become one of the most popular tourist hotspots in Melbourne. For me, they were up there with the Grand Canyon as one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

We did a full day tour from Melbourne's CBD which included other stops as well as the Apostles, such as Loch Ard Gorge and the adorable beach town of Port Campbell. It was one of the best days of our trip and I'd highly recommend this tour to anyone!

6) It is cheaper.

Australia is more expensive than England in general, but Sydney is on a whole other level. I found that the local food and drink was cheaper in Melbourne, particularly in the food courts, and don't get me started on the accommodation! For a week in Melbourne's CBD, our accommodation was literally half the price of a week in Sydney's CBD. You read that right, kids - HALF THE PRICE!

You know what?! I could go on and on and on about this city... It has great shopping, one of the best public transportation systems I've ever experienced, a nice marina, etc! On the whole Melbourne, I FREAKIN' LOVED YOU!

My sister and I have both said that we could see ourselves living there. It really does feel like a home away from home (which is ironic as it's so far from home)!

We were super sad to leave after our week was up but, hey, maybe we'll be back someday!

Next stop: Sydney.

(Have you ever been to Melbourne? What did you think? Katie-xo)

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2 November 2016

5 Amazing Things About Singapore

The Asia/Australia Travelling Series

I recently embarked upon my second travelling trip of the year to Asia and Australia (which I first told you guys about back in September) and have been back in the UK for 3 weeks now (SADFACE).

Since I returned, I haven't quite been the same! My sister and I had an amazing trip - and I can't wait to tell you all about it in this collection of posts called 'The Asia/Australia Travelling Series'. (Watch out for these bad boys popping up on the blog over the next few weeks!)

Our trip began in Singapore where we spent five nights exploring this incredible metropolis. It was my second time in the city after visiting back in 2014 on my very first travelling trip (read all about it here).

Here's five things I find amazing about Singapore:

1) Marina Bay Sands never gets old.

As it was my sister's first time in Singapore, naturally I had to do all the touristy things again with her. I could never ever EVER get bored of visiting Marina Bay Sands and it is one of the very first things I wanted to show her.

Anyone who says that the hotel with what looks like a cruise ship plonked across three skyscraper towers isn't impressive is LYING. (Liar, liar, pants on fire!)

Furthermore, it has what's called The Helix Bridge running up to it. The Helix Bridge has some pretty cool observation spots where you can get great photos of not only the hotel, but the Singapore skyline, from across the water.

The Helix Bridge leads to Marina Bay Sands Shoppes, the hotel's very own shopping mall, which has both designer and high street stores alike.

Then don't even get me started on the observation deck at the top of one of the towers! If you time it just right, you can get unbelievable views of the city during the day, at sunset and lit up at night. It always BLOWS MY MIND.

The Art Science Museum is also in the Marina Bay Sands vicinity, which I haven't personally visited but it looks rather awesome, so you can spend a good afternoon/evening around that area just trying to see and do everything.

My sister LOVED it. And so did I actually (for the second time)!

2) Palawan Beach is a short monorail away.

Another amazing thing about Singapore is the fact you can go from city to beach in a matter of minutes.

There are a few beaches on Sentosa Island, which is less than half an hour on the monorail from the city; the most gorgeous beach is Palawan.

We were extremely lucky when we went there, as the beach was practically deserted that day. The gorgeous golden sands and greenery of the palm trees are a stark contrast to the dull grey roads and skyscrapers of the city.

Trust me, Palawan Beach is a MUST DO!

3) Food and drink is so cheap.

It goes without saying that you can get more bang for your buck in Asia. When it comes to the local food, Singapore is no exception.

Whether it's buying a juice from a market for $1, a main meal in a food court for $5 or Vietnamese coffee in a cafe for $2, the novelty of how cheap and cheerful everything is will never get old.

The best thing about it all is that the quality is never compromised. I LOVE YOU, ASIA!

4) A Singapore Sling tastes just as good as the first time you tried it.

As we quickly got onto the subject of food and drink (which I can never avoid as I LOVE food), it's only fair that I talk about the wonderful double 'S' that originated in the city.

It's been more than 100 years since the famous bartender at Raffles created this gin-based cocktail in the hotel bar... And it's still going strong!

Singapore Slings are sold in practically every bar in the city; but the best one you're going to find is obviously the original at Raffles Hotel.

30ml Gin, 15ml Cherry Heering Liqueur, 7.5ml DOM Benedictine, 7.5ml Cointreau, 120ml Pineapple Juice, 15ml Lime Juice and 10ml Grenadine Syrup with a dash of Angostura Bitters and a slice of pineapple and cherry... One word: YUMMY.

5) The Grand Prix creates a buzz around the city.

We didn't actually realise until we booked the trip that we would be in Singapore on the weekend of the Grand Prix. #WINNING

There was such an incredible atmosphere within the city in the time that we were there. Every bar was packed with people, the race track was illuminated at night which made it visible from every rooftop we went on and you were permitted to walk through part of the track when they were setting up during the daytime.

We couldn't afford to get tickets to see any part of the Grand Prix, but it was just exciting to be there whilst it was all going on.

We had a blast!

It was a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed my second time in Singapore just as much, if not more, than the first time around! I always wanted to go back and I got my wish... And this time I got to share it all with my beautiful sister!

Next stop: Melbourne.

(Have you been to Singapore before? Which was your favourite part? Thanks so much for reading! Katie-xo)

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