Visiting Volcano Bay for the first time and a trip to the mall…

One of my favourite things to do on holiday is shop. It’s funny because I don’t actually go shopping at home very often at all. Sometimes weeks would have passed without me popping into town for a nose at the shops. Online shopping is another matter, I’m rather partial to online shopping. Anyway, whilst on holiday, Phil and I love shopping. Sometimes things are cheaper abroad, but mostly it’s because you can find things that are a little bit different to back home. Anyway, when Stateside we adore a trip to the Mall and if there’s an outlet nearby then even better!

When Phil and I were last in Orlando, we found an outlet Mall just under 2 miles from Universal Studios. We visited a few times during the ten days that we were there and picked up some treats, so knew that we wanted to visit again on this occasion.

We had a great time, I picked up some gorgeous summer clothes from American Eagle as well as the dreamiest Kate Spade bag. I love Kate Spade and this quirky bag was such a bargain. I was super pleased!

After we had exhausted the Mall, we popped over to Volcano Bay at Universal. I had been desperate to go since it opened last summer and it did not disappoint!

I’m such a fan of the Disney waterparks and I had a good feeling about the Universal one as their parks are really well put together.

It’s a bit awkward to get to as you have to take their shuttle bus from Universal Studios. I found this a bit annoying to be honest and would have much rather driven there ourselves. We had to wait for a while on the way there as well as the way back. We also went out of peak season, so I imagine it’s worse in the summer.

The park itself is fantastic, really well themed with the iconic volcano in the centre of the action. There are so many rides and the rapids are the best that I have ever been on.

One big issue that I had with was the Tapu Tapu queue system. Originally I thought that it was fantastic, but if you visit the park after midday (like we did), a lot of the rides are already fully booked for the rest of the day. This kinda sucked as we didn’t get to go on as many as we liked. I would therefore recommend that you go early and tap in to any that you are set on riding.

After a busy day shopping and visiting Volcano Bay, we headed over to Disney Springs to try out the Star Wars Void experience. It was fantastic and we had so much fun. It was well thought out and immersive. I would definitely recommend it.

What are your favourite things to do in Orlando?

L x

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Visiting Universal Studios, Florida…

Orlando is well known for being the theme park capital of the world. From the gigantic Disneyworld right through to Busch Gardens, there really is something for everyone. With so much to do and being completely spoilt for choice, it’s hard to formulate a plan to include it all. In the few times that we have visited Orlando, only once have we managed to squeeze in both Universal and Disneyworld. On this occasion, we only had time for Universal, which I wasn’t hating on because who doesn’t adore a trip to Universal Studios?!

I’ve only been to Universal in Hollywood and the one in Florida. Both have a completely different feel and whilst I like Hollywood’s take, I love Universal in Florida. I think that it’s because it is that much bigger, spread out and quite unique. Their entire Harry Potter sections are great and I love all of the HP themed rides. There are also more shows over in Florida and the Hulk rollercoaster which is a firm favourite with Phil.

I think what I love the most about Universal in Florida is the memories. How magical it was on our first visit years ago. Lounging in the sunshine shovelling chocolate flies into my mouth with my gal pal whilst waiting for the boys. Realising that The Mummy ride is different in Florida compared to Hollywood. The memories are definitely my favourite part.

We had such a nice time revisiting rides we have ridden many times and trying out new additions (we were all disappointed with the new Jimmy Fallon simulator). I like how detailed Universal Studios is as well as the variety on offer. Plus they have a Panda Express in the food court at City Walk, so I can end my day stuffing my face with my favourite fast food place Stateside.

It’s never a goodbye when leaving Universal, always a ‘see you soon’ and I can’t wait until we go again.

Have you visited Universal Studios?

L x

Travelling alone for the first time and visiting Boston…

Just before Christmas I received a lovely letter from one of my uni pals suggesting that we have a reunion with another friend of ours who lives in Boston. The three of us were super close during our time at university and despite each of us living on a different continent, we’ve managed to stay in touch. I last saw Cindy in January 2017 whilst we were visiting Hong Kong, and the last time we were all together was at my wedding in the summer of 2015.

Anyway, it worked out that the three of us would be Stateside at the same time (during our trip to Florida), so it made sense for me to leave the boys down south and hop on a flight to see my buddies for a couple of days.

I had never flown alone before simply because the occasion hadn’t arisen. I always go on holiday with Phil and as we met so young, I had only been on holiday with family beforehand.

I wasn’t nervous or worried about flying alone, I love travelling and am used to the flight experience. I thought that it might feel weird, but it was absolutely fine. I was sat with a nice lady who lived in Fort Lauderdale and was also travelling to see friends. I had a little nap, read an issue of Vogue and before I knew it, I was in Boston.

As we descended into Boston, the pilot announced that the temperature was 26. I thought it was odd that it appeared to be as warm as southern Florida before realising he had meant 26 Fahrenheit. It was actually minus 3. It’s so crazy to think that just a three hour flight can take you somewhere so different.

Luckily for me, my kind friend Heidi met me at the airport with her super cute little boy Jasper. We went shopping and ate lots of food with her husband Ian and then returned to the airport to meet Cindy.

It was so lovely to be reunited and we immediately went to a dessert lounge in Quincy for a catch up before turning in at Heidi’s for the night.

Have you travelled alone before?

L x

The Everglades, Keys and Fort Lauderdale…

Of all the times that we have travelled to Florida, we have never quite managed to make it to the Everglades or The Keys. We always seem to become swept up in the lights of Orlando and the beaches in North Florida. I think that there’s just so much to do and explore that we always seem to run out of time. Anyway, on this occasion, we decided to fly to Miami and explore the southern part of the sunshine state.

Our first stop was The Everglades, a gorgeous national park oozing with wildlife and greenery. We went on an airboat tour from The Everglades Holiday Park . The airboat was super fun and our host very knowledgeable. I loved feeling the wind in my hair and looking out for gators. Luckily we managed to spot quite a few on our trip. They are such majestic creatures and I feel like I learnt a lot about them from our trip. The only downside to the airboat tour was the part at the end where you have the option to hold a baby gator. It had its mouth tied shut and I just felt like it was completely unnecessary. Nobody needs to hold an alligator and the poor little thing must have felt terribly vulnerable. That being said, I would still highly recommend the boat tour and I think that overall they have good intentions with the wildlife.

Next stop was a trip to Key Largo. I had heard how dreamy the Keys are, but I didn’t imagine that they would be quite so lush. I immediately fell in love with the chilled atmosphere, crystal clear sea and how genuinely beautiful they are. The sea was warm and inviting. Possibly the clearest sea I have ever seen and still as a Polaroid. I could see fish everywhere and it was just so, so lovely. We found a little hidden beach tucked away behind some (also dreamy) houses and just existed there for a while. The winter has felt terribly long (and appears to be never ending – snow over Easter, say what?!), it was so, so nice to soak up the sun and feel it on my skin. I loved walking around in flip flops and a sundress. The temperatures were 27/28 degrees every day and it was absolutely divine. What a treat.

Continuing our beach theme, we headed over to Fort Lauderdale for a sunset stroll on the beach followed by dinner at a restaurant with live music that kisses the coastline. We also had a look around the shops. Fort Lauderdale is quite lively in the evenings, so I would definitely recommend a visit.

Have you visited Southern Florida?

L x

Welcome to Miami…

I have wanted to travel to Miami since Will Smith blasted onto the scenes in the 90’s with his aptly named track. The connotations of sun, sea, sand, warmth and fun called my name and I knew that one day I had to go. When booking our annual air miles trip for this year, I was originally looking to fly to Orlando for theme park fun (I’ve been desperate to go again since Volcano Bay opened at Universal). There wasn’t any availability for Orlando on the dates that we needed, but there was availability for Miami – result!

Flash forward a few months and I’ve found myself back in the sunshine state. We’ve got a few things planned whilst we are here but I’m mostly looking forward to enjoying some time soaking up the sunshine. It’s been so terribly grey over winter and I had forgotten what temperatures above ten degrees felt like. It’s dreamy.

Anyway, I can’t wait to explore and share!

Have you travelled to Miami?

L x

Meet Ivy…

In November last year we decided that it was about time we added a new addition to our family in the form of a little furball. Our other fur baby Holly, turned eleven years old in October and as her face greys, I start to worry more and more about the prospect of life without her. I simply cannot bear the thought of life without her four little paws pattering around on the hard wood floor. I would absolutely hate to come home and not have her greeting me at the door with her little tail wagging. So I began to think more about bringing home a play mate for Holly, a fur baby for us to ease the pain of Holly getting older. It’s selfish, but I know that we have a lot of love to give and a home with lots of space for them both.

We originally looked at rescue centres but I was disappointed when a lot of them either didn’t respond at all or replied saying that we couldn’t have a young dog because we have an older dog. I thought that this was ridiculous and it actually made me quite cross. I know Holly really well, she likes other dogs and I’m confident in our skills as dog owners that we would be able to handle the new situation. Dogs are social creatures and if well socialised, are able to adapt easily to living with a new furry companion in a pack. I was especially upset because there are so many dogs needing new homes and to brush us off without meeting Holly meant that a young dog that could have had a chance in a home with us wasn’t allowed to. It seemed so silly. It was this notion that made us look at puppies.

Originally I wanted a Miniature Dachshund, but we have two flights of stairs and Dachshunds are at a higher risk of developing back issues if they are allowed to jump on furniture or trundle up and down stairs. Holly has run of the house, so it would have been unfair to restrict the new addition. So we decided to stick with a breed that we are very familiar with and that works with our lifestyle – another Jack Russell.

I saw an advert online for a female Jack Russell with brown fur. To cut a long story short, little Ivy was living in terrible conditions. Kept outside in freezing temperatures with her parents. She had fleas, worms and was covered in poop (lovely!). We took her to the vets, cleaned her up and welcomed her into our family. Holly was overjoyed at first but then spent a whole day of ignoring her and doing whatever she could to stay away from Ivy. After that day, Holly warmed to her and they began to form a nice bond. They groomed each other and snuggled up together. My heart swelled.

We chose the name Ivy because it was approaching the festive season when she moved in and it worked really well with the name Holly. I wasn’t sure for the first couple of days if it suited her because she was such a dainty thing (weighed exactly 1kg) and Ivy felt like a harsh name. After a couple of days it felt right and Ivy stuck.

The first few days were really hard. Ivy hadn’t lived in a house before and was in all honesty, a bit feral. She hadn’t been trained to toilet on a mat or anything, found even the smallest bit of fluff on the floor, hated being alone and cried through the night. Whilst we had puppy fever and loved her instantly, the disturbed nights were not fun. At the start of December our heating broke and we were worried about her being cold in the night. We invited her into our bed and she slept beautifully and so did we. Whilst sharing a bed with a dog isn’t to everyone’s taste, we honestly don’t mind and having a full night’s sleep is a massive bonus (although she still needs the loo around 6am).

Ivy also despises being left alone and has done from the start. She gets all cross and upset. It breaks my heart when I leave her but we have to. I’m not sure why she is so funny about it, we’ve tried lots of things. I think ultimately she’s just going to be one of those that doesn’t tolerate being left. We have to plan things carefully so she’s only ever left for a couple of hours although we believe that she settles ten minutes after we leave. I think it’ll get better when she’s a bit older. Either way, we’ll get there in the end.

After having Ivy for a couple of months now, we are quite convinced that she isn’t a pure bred Jack Russell and that she might be a chihuahua mix. Strangers on the street, vets and dog trainers have all commented on how much she resembles a chihuahua. We really don’t mind if she is a chihuahua mix – we love her anyway, but we are thinking to DNA test her just to know for sure.

In terms of personality, Ivy is very sweet. She’s loving, playful and just adorable. I love playing hide and seek with her. Her whole body wags with excitement and it’s just the cutest thing. In a non-creepy way, I love watching her sleep. She stretches her little neck out and looks so peaceful. Sometimes she still suckles in her sleep. It’s adorable and something that Holly never did. We are very lucky because she hasn’t really destroyed anything round the house although she is rather partial to a bit of light sock theft. When Ivy gets too tired she has a ‘grumpy face’. Lines form on her tiny forehead along with little bags under her eyes.

Ivy also demonstrates a variety of noises depending on her mood. She still makes ‘puppy’ noises when she is looking for Holly or can’t get up on a bed/sofa/somewhere she shouldn’t be. Ivy also bleets like a lamb when we come home, it’s an unusual noise that I’ve not heard a dog make before. She also has different noises for playing and is quite an emotionally vocal dog. Although never incessantly or without reason.

Another aspect of her personality is how brash she is. If Ivy doesn’t like something, she really doesn’t like it and there isn’t really a middle ground. The two things that she hates are bath time and being left. It’s almost like a military operation to bath her as she tries to wriggle out of the tub. I think this may stem from her previous owners but can’t be sure.

Something that I was very keen on was socialisation. We didn’t socialise Holly and although she likes other dogs, she won’t play with them. I wanted to make sure that Ivy is confident around other members of her species so we started taking her to puppy hour at a local garden centre (I like to call it puppy club). It’s run by Pets Corner, is completely free and great for socialisation. At first Ivy was terrified and wouldn’t move from the comfort of her blanket. We persevered and slowly her confidence has grown. Ivy will happily play with any dog big or small (until she gets tired!). It’s been really lovely talking to other owners and I basically get to hang out with puppies for an hour – who wouldn’t want to do that?! I’ll be so sad when Ivy outgrows puppy club, but I think we have a few more weeks left.

We also enrolled her at Puppy School to help with socialisation and training. Ivy is getting there, but still needs practice of some commands. Her recall is amazing though and I’m confident when letting her off leash.

We are very much in love with our new buddy and I’m just soaking up this bouncy puppy stage whilst I can. I can’t wait see more of her personality develop. At almost 5 months, Ivy is weighing in at 2.4kg. I’m not sure how big she will grow, but I believe she’s on track to be around 4kg, so quite small. I’ll post another update in a few weeks.

Have you got any pets?

L x

A weekend at Center Parcs…

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to head over to Center Parcs with friends to celebrate four of our birthdays. I had never been to Center Parcs before, but had heard lots of good things so was very excited to go.

We don’t go away in the U.K. very often because we have already seen a fair bit of it (living here and all), and I just prefer to travel further afield for a holiday so that we can soak up different cultures.

Anyway, the convenience of holidaying in the U.K. was quite refreshing as I didn’t have to worry about luggage restrictions and could take as many liquids as I desired. Quite the novelty!

We opted for the Center Parcs located in Woburn because it’s just an hour out of London – perfect for an after work weekend getaway.

I had some preconceptions prior to arriving at Center Parcs, I knew that it would be an activity based break, but I didn’t realise how much of a little bubble you live in and that it really is an entire mini town located in the woods. You are encouraged to leave your car in the car park for the weekend, with the option of walking between areas or cycling. I quite liked this idea because I’m a fan of walking anyway and it just made the area really peaceful.

We arrived just after 8:30pm and our lovely friends had ordered Chinese take out to be delivered shortly after our arrival which was such a good idea. I like that you can order food to be delivered to your Lodge (they also deliver G&T’s which I thought was amazing) and it just adds to the convenience that Center Parcs offers.

Our Lodge was super nice and well planned out. We had a three bedroom lodge with maid service and a sauna. The sauna was especially lovely after running around in the snow for hours (more on that later). Each room had an en suite and the whole Lodge was contemporary and clean. Just how I like it!

On our first day, we went swimming over at the subtropical paradise area. It’s super fun with a few water slides, rides, a lazy river and a wave pool. I thought that it was great although it lacked a real swimming pool and a jacuzzi. It would have been nice to have somewhere to just sit and chill in the water and personally I think a jacuzzi would be a welcome addition. We still had lots of fun there before heading over to Starbucks for a quick lunch followed by badminton. Badminton was indoors on a nice and clean court. It was really fun although I’m not very good at racquet sports. Or any sports really if we are being honest!

There are over 200 activities to do at Center Parcs which is absolutely bonkers. Everything from riding a Segway to abseiling, they’ve got it covered. I do think that the activities can work out a bit pricey though and they’ve got you over a barrel once you are there. Anyway, after badminton, we hung out at the sports bar before my friend and I disappeared to the spa whilst the boys played more badminton and went aqua jetting.

The spa was amazing! We had a massage before heading into the spa itself. The massage was great and such a treat. We could spend all evening in the spa although I honestly thought that we would be bored after an hour or so. I was very wrong! We were in the spa from 5pm until 9pm, soaking up the saunas, steam rooms and all of the other delights. They had so many themed zones that were really well put together and the place was nice and clean. Although, once again, lacking a jacuzzi!

They do have a beautiful infinity pool although it was absolutely freezing and I decided it wasn’t worth the dip in temperature. My friend had a little swim in it though. We had a perfect girly evening chatting away and embracing the spa. I think it’s a must visit if you go to Center Parcs.

On Sunday, we again went over to the subtropical paradise where an incident took place on the powerful rapids. We were trying to form a human train, although when I reached back to grab Phil, the current forced a poor innocent woman into my path which resulted in an accidental boob grab. She was chill about it, I was mortified!

It had also been snowing, but we had already booked laser combat. I’m not very good at preparing for outdoorsy stuff unless it’s a warm summers’ day at the beach and I had to partake in the laser activity which was set amongst the woodland in heeled boots. It was freezing but super fun and I didn’t even fall over – result! I was actually surprised at how well thought out the laser combat activity was and would really recommend it.

After feeling the effects of the low temperatures, we retreated to our lodge for Indian take out and a warm up in our private sauna. It was a relaxing evening after a busy weekend.

I must say that I feel like I may have the CP bug and can’t wait to book another cheeky weekend away there.

Have you been to Center Parcs before?

L x

Barcelona Part Four – Relaxing by the Marina…

On our fourth and final day in Barcelona, I was only interested in doing two things. Firstly, soaking up the sunshine before I’m smothered in grey cloud back home, and secondly, eating good food.

There was one place that I had grown to really love whilst in Barcelona and that was the marina. I could sit there for hours watching the ripples in the water and the boats floating along. There is also a little stall (or a few stalls if you walk along), where you can buy crepes and waffles. I opted for a chocolate crepe with whipped cream and did not regret it.

We also walked along Las Ramblas and ate more Japanese food (such a sucker for Asian food!) and it was the perfect end to a perfect trip.

Have you travelled to Barcelona?

L x

Barcelona Part Three – Park Guell and the Gothic Quarter…

On the our third day in beautiful Barcelona, we decided to walk from our hotel near Eixample to Park Guell. We Google mapped our route and discovered that it would take around an hour which was fine because we both quite like walking. What Google maps failed to mention was that the final leg of our walk to Park Guell was up a steep hill. I was melting by the time we reached the top (although towards Park Guell they provide you with the option of using an escalator which was like a drop of gold falling from heaven!).

Anyway, the uphill walk was worth it for those dreamy views. We could see all of the way to the sea which was rather lovely. Park Guell is super nice to walk around too, we loved it.

Once we had finished mooching around we decided to walk back towards our hotel (much more fun going downhill). We stopped for cake, a drink and a well deserved rest for a bit before heading over to the Gothic Quarter to enjoy the wonderful architecture.

There are so many cute little shops and restaurants lining the Gothic Quarter, so it’s easy to get swept up in an afternoon there.

We then headed over to see the Marina lit up at night, which was really nice and we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the shopping centre. I’m such a sucker for Asian food!

Have you visited Park Guell?

L x

Barcelona part two, La Sagrada Familia and beach fun…

We were so lucky with the weather during our time in Barcelona. Travelling in Europe during January is always a risk in terms of weather but we lucked out and had sunshine with blue skies everyday during our time in Barcelona. Having good weather meant that we could make the most of being outside and were able to walk everywhere without resembling a soggy raccoon upon reaching our destination.

With the sunshine smothering us, we decided to walk to the beach from our hotel near Eixample. I’m at my happiest at the beach and I just feel so grounded and chilled out whenever I’m near the sea.

We meandered down to the marina which was such a lovely surprise. I didn’t realise that the marina would be so lovely, laced with palm trees and pretty views. There is also a shopping centre which is open 365 days a year and is home to a variety of shops and some great restaurants too.

I wasn’t expecting a particularly special beach in Barcelona. I’d been told that it wasn’t that great, so I was thrilled when we arrived at the beach and were greeted with golden sand and clear blue sea. In all honesty, the beach was much more desirable than many of the beaches here in the U.K., so I’m so glad that we weren’t put off and still popped along for some salty air and a stroll along the sea front.

I love gazing out at the ocean and seeing absolutely nothing connected to human life. Just the waves meeting the Earth, the ocean filled with life and the sky above. It makes me feel so chilled out and grounded. Exactly what you need on a birthday!

After we had embraced beach life, we decided to head on over to a cafe for coffee and cake. Unfortunately my Spanish is not so great and we actually found ourselves in a gluten free cafe where I had the weirdest crepe I’ve ever seen. It looked like a prawn cracker and had a spongy consistency. Anyway, I’ve decided I need to work on my Spanish before our next trip!

Following on from our gluten free cafe experience, we walked over to La Sagrada Familia because have you even been to Barcelona if you haven’t gawped at Gaudi’s masterpiece in the flesh?!

What a beauty! Such sumptuous architecture bathed In Mediterranean sunshine. Phil said that it was the most beautiful building he has ever seen and I am inclined to agree (although Italy has some real treasures).

We then walked back over to Eixample where we stumbled upon a traditional Spanish restaurant and had a glass of Sangria with our seafood paella. Not going to lie, the paella was a bit too fishy for my liking, but I was instantly hooked on the Sangria. It was divine!

Have you visited La Sagrada Familia?

L x