Monday, 20 June 2016

TRAVEL: Top 5 Tips for Visting Las Vegas

1. Take an afternoon nap.
The first few days of your holiday, your body clock is adjusting to the time difference, and its a killer. Don't fret about 'missing out' if you take an hour or two nap - this is the city that never sleeps, so everything will still be buzzing when you venture back out in the evening. Don't try the 'go hard or go home' rule - With the heat and the fact that you're on your feet all day, your body will need rest or you will burn out and more than likely become ill. I remember having my first experience of being delirious here through extreme tiredness.. I got so tired that I could no longer string sentences together. Tiredness has never affected my speech before like it did that day! Safe to say I went to bed when I realised this was happening!

MGM Grand Hotel (Source - MGM Offical Website)

2. Take a trip to Downtown Vegas.
Jump on a bus and take a 15 minute bus ride to Downtown Vegas/Fremont Street. It's old school and it really feels like you've taken a step back to the 60's. There's so much character and wacky things to see. I could have people watched down there all night. Such a great atmosphere and although there's still lots of lights, its definitely a breather from the strip! You can zip line above the crowds, eat, dance in the street, all whilst a music video is playing above your heads on the ceiling. Arguably tacky, but so good!

Fremont Street, Downtown Vegas. Can you spot the zip lines?

3. Do your research when choosing your hotel!
I ventured into every hotel on the strip and every hotel at both ends of the price scale had that Wow factor. We stayed at the MGM Grand as part of a wedding package, but I know others that have stayed in cheaper hotels and they've been just as nice. Everything is pretty grand out there, including cheaper hotels, so if you're a hotel snob, you needn't be here. Of course the Bellagio is very famous, but only a few hotels down and you'll find The Flamingo. Still in the heart of the strip, but so much nicer on the purse strings!

4. Be aware of the street performers.
Actors dressed as Elvis, Michael Jackson etc, are dotted up and down the strip. Of course people see them as a photo opportunity, however they will expect to be tipped if a photo is taken with them. America is known for their tipping, but sometimes a small act (i.e. taking a selfie) you may not realise requires a small token gesture, so be mindful!

source - google images

5. Venture into all the hotels!
Vegas was the first holiday that I ventured in other hotels besides my own. I remember constantly thinking 'are you sure we're allowed to go in this hotel, we're not staying here!?' I was only used to European holidays, and that's just not something you do in the likes of Greece, Spain etc. The hotels in Vegas are an attraction in themselves. Each hotel is themed mostly round a country. For example the gondola photo below is The Venetian, which, you've guessed it, is based around Italy. Everything is so cleverly done, its so impressive. You could spend hours just wandering in and out of them all, they all have shops, restaurants, attractions (i.e. the gondola's, aquariums etc). There's so many fantastic photo opportunities in the hotels too.. I think 90% of my photos were taken inside of them!
Apart from the large one, each of these photos were taken inside hotels. The large one however is a continuation of the gondola scene that is on the right.
Have you been to Vegas before? If so, what was your favourite hotel?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

TRAVEL: Top 5 tips to save money for travel.

I like to travel... like, a lot. There's so much out there to see, but obviously with travel comes cost, and for some, its not as easy to gather funds together. Here are my top tips on gaining some extra pounds towards that holiday.

1. Sell old clothes. This is such an obvious one but it really does help towards spending. I popped a batch of old clothes on Ebay last month and made almost £100, which for me is a few days spending money on holiday. I plan to do that several times before our holiday in November. Because I'm a regular user of Ebay, I know what will sell and what wont. Also think about the season that you are currently in at the time of selling. Don't try to sell winter clothes on the run up to summer because people wont be looking for them, and you'll only lose out on money. I've been able to be really strict with myself lately, and although I love that size 10 top that I've had 8 years, I just know at least for the foreseeable future I aint squeezing myself into it anytime soon!

2. Curb spending on non-essentials. Again, obvious, but hear me out. I don't expect you to completely cut out those meals out with your partner or friends as soon as you book a holiday. Your social life would become pretty dull if you were too harsh! But be wise - I know I can get very lazy on work days and instead of making lunch to take to work, I end up in Tesco's on my lunch break and before I know it, I've spent £4+. Times this by the amount of days you are at work per week and it soon adds up! If its hard work jumping from purchasing food every day to making your own food every day, just do it gradually. For example, if you work 5 days per week, try to make lunch 3 of those days, then the other 2 you can 'treat' yourself and be lazy. There will still be a small saving there. Gradually aim to decrease those supermarket lunchtime trips to zero and you'll soon see your bank balance increase! Also, try to use coupons/vouchers were you can, or Tesco clubcard points if you own one. I recently signed into my account and didn't realise that I had over £50 sat there! If I use the boost system, I could get at least 2 lots of meals for both me and my partner, for free! So your social life doesn't have to go down the drain completely when saving!

3. This depends on the time frame of booking your holiday to actually going. We booked our holiday in February and we are going in November. Therefore, in that timeframe I knew I had a birthday to celebrate and it was on the brink of being Christmas when we depart, so if your relatives/partner etc have a tendency to ask what you would like for your birthday/Christmas, ask for the currency of the country you are visiting! I recently celebrated my birthday and managed to rack up $120 from gifts, which equates to approx. £82. Again, that will get me a good few meals in New York! I prefer to ask for the currency as opposed to just 'money' because if I receive sterling, I am more liable to spend it! However obviously if this is for a holiday in the UK, you don't have much choice! I understand (and completely agree!) that money isn't 'exciting' to receive as a present, but knowing you're in control of what you spend it on is much safer than receiving a present that you may not like!

4. This applies more so to bloggers, but accept paid sponsorship where possible. I'm not massive when it comes to the blogosphere but I occasionally get contacted by companies to write paid posts. If its relevant to my blog to a certain degree, I will accept. It's money I wouldn't have had, and it gets set aside in the savings account! If you're not a blogger but have access to overtime at work.. do it! Doesn't take a genius to work that one out though!



Sunday, 12 June 2016


The people at Clickstay are running a competition to win a £1000 Clickstay voucher towards a villa stay in Spain, £500 towards flights and a £250 voucher for Somebody Somewhere sunglasses. To enter, simply write a blog post about your dream holiday to Spain. T&C's are here.. If you're not a blogger but still want to be in with a chance of winning some great goodies, a similar competition is being held here for readers. You get the chance to with a £500 Clickstay voucher and a snazzy camera too! Be quick though, the closing date is midnight on 12th June 2016. Go go go!

What's Clickstay I hear you ask? A website that offers awesome villa's and apartments to rent worldwide. Ever wanted your own pool on holiday? Look no further!

The first task of the competition was to select the 'perfect clickstay villa', and that was a task in itself. I was 'oo-ing' and 'arr-ing' the whole time at the luxurious villas and apartments they have on offer.

I've been to several places in Spain over the years; Tenerife, Benidorm, Salou, but they've all been very beach-orientated holidays, so this time I opted for Barcelona, a city that appears to have lots to offer (and will suit the boyfriend in terms of football!). After an hour of trawling, I finally settled on this big ass mansion, better known as Villa Victoria, and yes, it's definitely fit for a queen. (I really wanted to include every photo here to show you it in all its grandeur, but I know what an overloaded photo webpage can do to ones computer! Hopefully though, with the few photos I have included, I think you get the idea...

This villa sleeps a whopping 16 people, and the owner really looks like they know their stuff when it comes to interior design. This villa is beautifully decorated, each with different themed rooms, with lots of vibrant colour. The outdoor pool area has calming delicate lights everywhere, that I can imagine adds a fantastic ambience in the evening when eating alfresco or taking an evening dip, especially with the deep glow of the pool (ahh.. I'm already there!). This villa likes its entertainment, and offers guests a home theatre, pool and football table, as well as all the necessary items to keep one in tune with that big world wide web!

You're in arms reach of bars, restaurants and a supermarket, which is always nice - who wants to cook every night on holiday? Certainly not me! Although the supermarket will certainly be handy in stocking up the fridge with ice-cold refreshments. Mmmm..

This villa oozes luxury and is the main reason why I found myself gravitating towards it. It appears to have everything, plus more, with the city of Barcelona up the road.

Now onto the tricky part - who would I bring? I think I'd make this a family affair and unite both my partner's family and my family together. We've been together almost 9 years and they still haven't all met properly. Crazy, right? But what better (and more perfect) venue to unite as one than in this villa. My partner's mum has unfortunately just received some bad news in relation to her health, so I'd definitely use this as a pick-me-up for her.

What would I do? I'm a huge planner in terms of holidays, and definitely an adventure seeker. I love to explore and certainly not one to sit and worship the sun all day. I'd go out and explore the local area, as well as head to Barcelona city centre. I'd check out the architecture (in particular the Sagrada Familia). I'd be brave and attempt to climb the Montjuic Mountain to indulge in the views at the top (if I reach it!). I'm not one to spend hours in Art museums, but when in Barcelona and all that jazz... I'd be happy to check out the random outdoors art work that the city offers. A holiday isn't a holiday without some shopping, so I'd stroll along the Las Ramblas and see what this 'beautiful chaos' is all about, as some refer to it as.

Food is also a big part of my life (I've been known to revolve holidays around restaurants before.. no shame, no shame). So of course I'd make sure I was eating tapas, drinking sangria and enjoying that Spanish sunset!

As well as the fast-paced, adventure-fuelled days, I'd definitely make use of Villa Victoria (how could you not?). I'd immerse myself in a book, legs dipped in the pool, big floppy hat on and huge sunglasses, with an umbrella cocktail by my side.

Oh how the other half live.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Paris Inspired Cocktails

A little over 2 years ago I would have just returned from a trip to Paris as part of my birthday celebrations.

The whole trip was very rushed, trying to cram a day at Disneyland as well as a day in the city seeing all the sights. Unfortunately due to the amount of walking we did the day prior, my feet didn't hold out very long, and by mid afternoon I had to call it quits and resort back to our hotel room. Sad times, especially when in such a beautiful city.

It was frustrating to say the least. Being a massive explorer and knowing that Paris is well known for its cuisine, there were so many places I wanted to see and eat at. I saw so many little cafes, with tables lined outside, enabling you to admire the fast-paced city life whilst sipping on coffee and eating pastries in the warm sunshine. I think the closest we got to doing this was grabbing a (rather expensive) ice-cream from a vendor right next to the Eiffel Tower and then later at Planet Hollywood near to Disneyland. It obviously wasn't the same experience!

If I was to visit again I'd definitely do things differently. Skipping Disneyland would be something I would do (Disneyland just doesn't compare to Florida!). I'd spent more time in the city, sampling Parisian restaurants and soaking up a bit more of their culture.

Something else I unfortunately didn't get to try was a cocktail. Yep - a birthday weekend without a cocktail. Actually, I tell a lie - I had a mocktail in Planet Hollywood near to Disneyland, that's gotta count for something, right?! But being sat in a restaurant, full of children and artificial-ness wasn't really my idea of luxury. Instead it resembled something similar to a school dining hall.

There are so many swanky bars to experience in Paris, with so many skilled mixologists that it would be a shame to not experience both a cocktail and the environment it at least once! I will admit, there's also something appealing about watching a cocktail be created before your eyes. This got me thinking to making cocktails at home; something I don't do very often. I only tend to make cocktail pitchers when we're having family gatherings or social meet ups with friends, and they're rare these days. However, I've made a pledge to myself - this summer we'll be holding our very first BBQ (when I know the sun is gonna stick around for a few days!). At this BBQ, I am going to make a cocktail or two.. a Parisian inspired one, cos I'm posh like that.

The first one that really takes my fancy is The Parisian Sunset. That name in itself just evokes a lot of imagery for me. I love sunsets, and I loved (what I saw of) Paris, which makes this the perfect cocktail for me! It sounds elegant, looks simple yet sophisticated and is definitely an easy one to recreate at home!

30ml cognac
20ml Campari
30ml orange juice
50ml champagne
Orange twist
Wine glass.

The next Paris-inspired cocktail that really caught my eye (simply by the name!) was the Baton Rouge. Once upon a time when I first started going out 'clubbing' as we used to call it back then, there was a pub/bar/club called 'The Baton Rouge' in my local town. I've spent many a nights in there and collected some really good memories. This bar closed down a few years ago so I'm quite happy to let my memories live on through a cocktail instead!

The Baton Rouge cocktail...

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
20ml Sweet vermouth
20ml Xanté Liqueur
20ml VSOP cognac
20ml Gold rum
Garnish: 1 Lemon twist
Glass: Cocktail

I can imagine this to be a little more powerful in flavour than the previous cocktail, what do you think?

Upon reading 'Insider City Guides', published by The Times and Sunday Times, JJ Goodman (above) was inspired to create his own Parisian themed cocktails, based on the '6 coolest bars in the city' of Paris, according to the Insider's guides.

Do you make cocktails at home? Have you ever visited Paris before?


Monday, 6 June 2016

Review: May's Degustabox!

For the most part I really enjoyed the contents of this month's DB. Although I felt like a lot of the products were more on the snack side of things, I do love a good snack so this worked well for me.

Lets take a closer look...

Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey BBQ Glaze - £1.99
Bottles like these really make me want to invest in a BBQ! I haven't got to try this out yet, because as well as the lack of BBQ, we seem to have accumulated a tonne of BBQ sauce in our cupboard and just can't seem to get through the stuff!
Beloved Date Nectar - £3.50
This stuff can be used in porridge, on pancakes and as an alternative to sugar in baking. However something is telling me I sampled a date a few years back and really didn't like them, so I haven't been drawn towards this sauce just yet.

Cranes - 2 x £1.90
I'm not afraid to admit that I don't really drink alcohol. I've been through many a holidays, birthday's, christmas' and I don't touch a drop of the stuff. A few nights ago, at the start of a 4 day weekend, I had run out of juice and really fancied something cold and refreshing. I forced myself to reach for this in the fridge and I actually really liked it, so much so that I finished the whole bottle (yes, this is achievement for me!). It was light and fruity and there was no overpowering taste of alcohol that made my tastebuds squirm. I am struggling to find what alcohol it actually consists of though!?

Pomegreat - £1.49
I was expecting good things from this, but the taste disappointed. Not my cup of tea at all.

Kallo Rice Cakes - £1.29/£1.69
I bloody loved these. They are light yet moreish. The sweet topping kept making me want to go back for more. It was the perfect combination of both savoury and sweet. They come individually wrapped in packs of 3 so I just grabbed these and it was a replacement for my sandwich/pasta at work. Yum!

Get Fruity - £1
This fruit and oat bar wasn't up my street unfortunately, but I knew that when I saw it. It just didn't tantalize those taste buds for me. I'm not usually a fussy eater but when it comes to dried fruit, or fruit bars, its definitely a love or hate thing for me, and more so its hate, and this bar fell into that category. Sorry!

Mrs Crimbles Gluten Free Madeleines
These perfectly sized individually-wrapped cakes are great for on-the-go. They had a slight different taste to typical sponge due to them being gluten free, and I found the sponge to be a little more dense and heavy, but they were still pretty tasty!

(please ignore the white central box)

Garofalo - £1.99
The appearance of this pasta just makes me want to cook it immediately. Really intriguied to see if this has got a different taste to normal fusilli pasta. 

Pasquier Croissants - £1.80
I really enjoyed the convenience of these, especially before work in a morning. Being able to just flick the oven on, unwrap 1-2 of these and pop them in for a few minutes enabled me to carry on with typical morning errands before whipping them out again, slathering some butter on, and eating them! No preparation is what I like best in a morning, so these were perfect! Not to mention delicious!
The Wonderful Company - 2 x 90p
Pistachio was a nut I think I discovered whilst being at uni, and I remember getting a bit addicted. I do still enjoy them but it's not often I purchase them, so this was a nice little nostalgic treat. Still as nice as ever, and the size of these packs are perfect to pop in your handbag and not get carried away with the amount you eat! Same goes for the almonds, although I do find these a little more difficult to eat alone - I feel they should be accompanied with something..
Pechkeks Fortune Cookies - 2 x £1
Bit of a strange item to be included in a subscription box, but I'm all about the unique things in life! These are a comedy take on the fortune cookies that you tend to get with your Chinese meal - they are black in colour, and instead of offering a life-changing quote, they offer insults. I wish I kept mine but it definitely did make me raise a smile. These would be brilliant at dinner parties. Not that I ever hold any of those....

To subscribe to DB and get a whopping £6 discount on your first box, type the code SIGIDN at checkout.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

May Round Up - Birthdays, Beaches and Baked Goods!

The month I've been anticipating for a while is over and done with within the blink of an eye.

May is always one of my favourite months of the year because not only is it my birthday month, but its when the weather starts to become warmer and the lights definitely start to get brighter. Good weather definitely motivates me, although I think the sun definitely needs to get its hat on right now don't you think?!

The month of May saw 2 afternoon tea's with 2 different friends in 2 different locations. Afternoon tea is something I've become obsessed with over the last couple of years, and it's pretty embarrassing (more so for my waistline) as to how many I've had in the past 3 years. I haven't reviewed each and everyone, but if you want to see where I've had the pleasure of indulging such yummy food, have a browse over my review posts here. - I've had afternoon tea's all over the country!

Keeping on the topic of food, I also enjoyed tea with my friends at an American style restaurant in a town nearby. It's not often I gather my friends together as a group so this made a nice change.

My main highlight was visiting Whitby for a few days. We took a steam train to Goathland (all your Harry Potter fans will know the relevance!), got in touch with our nature side and took a trek down to a waterfall. The waterfall was lovely, and I could have easily set up a picnic there had there been a rock big enough! What I didn't quite like was the trek back up. You know you're unfit when people in their 50's are overtaking you. We also had a few evening walks round the harbour and grabbed a boat ride into the choppy waters! Read more about my Whitby adventures here.

As it stands now, I don't currently have any more hotel stays/breaks planned until our big 'un in November/December, although don't hold your breath too long - It's Mike's birthday in August, so anything can happen...

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