Monaco – April 2018

Hi all! I’ve returned to the world of intermittent travel – starting with Monaco (and by definition, also Nice, I guess?)! I’ll admit, it was pretty much a work trip, but I still managed to see a lot of the beautiful city and its surroundings, as well as pretend I was absolutely minted for a few days. Which is always fun.

We landed in Nice at around 5pm local time from Heathrow (side note – didn’t bother with a lounge going out. I’ve had too many dodgy Aspire experiences and didn’t fancy paying £15 for some bean salad and a weak tea). The highlight of the flight was possibly seeing Geri Horner (aka Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice) and her squad at the front of the small plane – turning to Mr Roams and asking repeatedly if it was “GINGER SPICE OH MY GOD” throughout was the highlight of the flight for him, I’m sure.

Spice Girl shenanigans aside, we got a shuttle bus from Nice airport to our hotel in Monaco, which was the Fairmont Monte Carlo, overlooking the hairpin bend section of the Monaco Grand Prix. A lovely hotel, if not *very* expensive (drinks were average €15 each, but did come with nuts!). Mr Roams and I had lots of fun pretending we could afford the various items in the hotel shops whilst we slowly sipped our €10 diet Cokes.

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Weather was great, as you can see!

 

As it was predominantly a work trip, with lots of work-specific activities, I won’t talk too much about what we actually did during the trip, but I will talk a little about Monaco as a destination and things to do there. Strap in…

As you may or may not know, Monaco is a principality in the South of France – famous for being home to the aforementioned Monaco Grand Prix, Princess Grace, casinos, and millionaires trying to escape tax. As a result of this, the place is *very* expensive – beautiful, but super pricey. The main boulevard throughout Monaco was understandably full of designer shops, expensive car showrooms (think McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, Lambos, etc etc), and also pretty parks which we enjoyed strolling through, checking out all of the 80 year old women with painted faces, perfectly coiffed hair and Juvederm up to the eyebrows.

 

Tip – the principality is actually insanely small – I think less than a square mile! – but it’s insanely hilly. Take comfortable shoes, don’t worry about wearing your Loubs out.

As part of the work activities, we had the good luck of being able to book a complimentary helicopter flight (seriously, WHAT IS MY LIFE) overlooking the entirety of Monaco and dipping into France and Italy too. It was my first time in a helicopter and I was initially slightly nervous until I sat next to the pilot who didn’t seem to be too bothered about anything, really. This nonchalant attitude gave me confidence – if he wasn’t worried, I shouldn’t be – but there were still a few dips where I nearly saw my €15 baguette lunch again. Anyway, the pictures!

 

We couldn’t come to Monaco without having a flutter in a casino, so after a posh gala dinner where I had to deploy about 4 layers of Spanx, we headed to the famous Monte Carlo casino! Minimal pictures because I wasn’t allowed to take pictures and had to style it out when I got caught by pretending I was texting instead.

 

 

It will come as no surprise to anyone that we didn’t win big – although apparently one of my colleagues won €200 or something! – but we DID win on a slotty after I pressed a load of random buttons and somehow came away with a whole €15 profit. I don’t understand gambling – I’m not one of life’s risktakers anyway – but I was pretty proud of my winnings. Until we lost it all on another slotty. You win some, you lose some.

All in all, we had a lovely time in Monaco. It’s a very small principality, and an expensive one at that, so unless you’re minted and fancy buying a Lambo, there’s not much to do for your average Joe aside from people watch and window shop… but in a way that’s all we really wanted to do anyway. It’s a great insight into how the Other Half live – who knows, if I keep playing the slotties I may get there someday, lolz – but for now it made me pretty happy with my little lot.

Next post coming soon – as well as a new series called Subway Special, where I’ll walk you through the world’s different subway systems, how to navigate them, and where to go for the highlights in each city. First up is stateside, which should give you a clue as to where my last destination was… 😉

R xx

New Year, New Travel…

Hi all,

Long time no post! It’s been a chaotic few months with sadly minimal travel, but I’m trying desperately to rectify this through some classic el-cheapo flight purchases… here’s the plan of attack for the next few months…

* April 12th-15th : Monaco
* April 21st-28th : New York
* April 23rd-24th : Fredericksburg, Virginia
* May 19th-20th : Luxembourg (FINALLY)

I’m trying to decide between Slovakia (Bratislava), Slovenia (Ljubljana) and Latvia (Riga) for the end of May, so any thoughts on that would be appreciated too. I haven’t done too much of Eastern Europe, and it’s an area I really want to explore more, given that it’s cheap to get to (thanks, plethora of Ryanair bases) and relatively unexplored by most British tour groups, in comparison to most European cities and destinations. There’s nothing I hate more than being on a Sleazyjet flight surrounded by stag dos chugging Stella Artois in low-cut nipple-exposing tank tops. No thank you, I’m over it.

In related news, I saw the following news article recently (apologies that it’s The Sun, it pains me as much as it does you):

Brits have travelled to this many countries on average – how do you compare?

If you thought the average number of countries visited by Brits was less than 10, you’d be spot on. If we break it down even further, using this Torygraph article (shudder), these countries mostly, on average, comprise of the following:

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Look guys, I get it. Spain is sunny, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s sadly now full of fellow Brits who have built Wetherspoons, Greggs, and the occasional Iceland. For the most part, it’s Britain for people who want warmth and cheap stuff (which kills me, but that’s a separate post altogether). But do we really want that on holiday? Do we really want to be surrounded by each other, seeing the same stuff, chatting the same chat (in English, of course), only to get back to a…relatively similar existence?

The whole point of a holiday is a break away from the norm – to experience new things and broaden your horizons. It’s kinda hard to do that when you’re surrounded by everything you’re familiar with.

So this year, I dare you. I dare you to go somewhere you’d never have considered before. Raise that number of countries visited. Go and experience some truly different cultures. Eat stuff you don’t feel wholly comfortable with. Try and speak in a different language. Chat with locals. Get another perspective. You’ll feel much better for it, I promise.

(And if you’re wondering, my number’s 26 – soon to be 28! Come on, 30!)

R xx

Travel Music – A Roundup

Music is a HUGE part of any trip for me. Not only does it get me excited about a trip, listening to the music of the country I’m visiting, but it can encompass so much about the country itself. I’m a huge music nerd (seriously), as well as a huge travel fan (obviously), so I’ve put together some Spotify playlists featuring artists from different continents. Play them, follow them for regular updates, learn about some new artists and bands, and enjoy them!

(Technical tip – if these embedded players don’t work in your browser, try clicking on the green Spotify logo within the player to open the playlist in a separate browser window)

Australasian Mix (featuring minimal Kylie)




Asian Mix (K- and J-Pop heavy!)




African Mix


British Mix (come on, I had to include one Britpop list on here!)

European Mix (featuring a range of different countries and styles. And ABBA, always)

North American Mix

South American Mix

Hope y’all enjoy listening to these, as much as I enjoyed putting them together!

R xx

Japanese Beauty: Essentials and Observations

It’s a truth universally acknowledged by several Internet bloggers that Eastern and Western beauty ideals are incredibly different, for the most part. And nowhere is this more evident than beauty stores/drugstores, where you can literally find everything from double eyelid tape (yes, really) to cream that makes your nipples pinker (again – yes, really). I decided to pick up a load of stuff from several drugstores around Shinjuku because a) I’m a complete beauty products hoarder, and b) if faced with the decision to buy coloured contact lenses, face peeling gel and sheet masks containing horse placenta, why on earth wouldn’t I? See some picks and mini reviews below!

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Canmake cream blush and marshmallow finish powder

Canmake is a Japanese beauty brand with an apparent focus on fresh faced, youthful appearance (like much of Japanese beauty – I saw no smokey eyes or tanner being advertised whatsoever, so obviously I stuck out like a sore thumb 💁🏻). The Cream Cheek blush is well known in Asian beauty circles for its incredible pigmentation and colour range – it’s said that Queen Jenna Lyons herself asks her assistant to bring her back plenty of these when she goes to Japan! – and at 580 yen a pop, it won’t break the bank. The cream dries down to a powder finish once applied, and is fairly buildable and versatile, being used for lips too. Very excited to try this more! I also picked up this adorable pressed powder compact – I think it’s fairly bog standard as a powder, but the compact was just too cute!

Canmake cream blush – £7.21, Amazon

Canmake marshmallow finish powder – £12.40, Amazon

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Shiseido Hand Cream 

I won’t lie, I was drawn to this because of the cute packaging, and because it was dirt cheap Shiseido (500 yen!)… but turns out it’s actually pretty good! Absorbent, non greasy, and fragrance free. I ended up buying three tubs. And it looks GREAT on my desk at work #officelyfe

Shiseido Hand Cream – £8.50, Amazon

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Mainichi Sheet Mask Multipack

The Japanese are borderline obsessed with sheet masks (well, skincare in general, but you get me) – and were selling sheet mask multipacks for around £6 for 30 (!). I bought two packs – one with the aforementioned horse placenta (which is actually brilliant, put your judgey faces away), and this one which contains a variety of different types of face mask, none of which I fully understand. Anyway, cheap sheet masks, yay!

Purupuru sheet masks – £12.38, Amazon

Lishan sheet masks – £31.17, Amazon

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Cure Natural Aqua (Peeling) Gel

Peeling gels are hot property in Japan, where it’s de rigeur to have baby soft, bright skin (not red raw a la a chemical peel). I had seen this reviewed on several websites prior to going (yeah, I did my research) but was relatively sceptical when I saw that it was mostly water-based and contained no exfoliant properties whatsoever. What? What is this madness?! But, as it turns out, this is witchcraft and sorcery and is actually INCREDIBLE at peeling and removing dead skin. Who knew? See below for an action shot that I stole off Google because the last thing y’all need to see is a load of my dead skin:

Dead skin whaaaaat

There are other types of peeling gel on the market, but this is the bestseller, and for good reason…

Cure Natural Aqua Gel – £21.54, Amazon

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Shu Uemera Eyelash Curlers

These eyelash curlers are Holy Grail Beauty Tools for their ability to curl even the most stubbornly straight lash… and best part was that they were only around 400 yen! Unfortunately, the markup is slightly larger in the west… but still worth grabbing a pair if you’re hankerin’ for those Bambi lashes.

Shu Uemera Eyelash Curlers – £16.99, Amazon

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Lycee Eye Drops (Strength 2)

Another thing the Japanese love – dewy, sparkling eyeballs. These eye drops are famous in Japan and beyond for both their refreshing quality but equally the “JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THIS” reaction when first using. Because these bad boys sting. A lot. It’s almost like pouring pure undiluted, oddly pink alcohol into your eyes for the first 30 seconds. However, a lot of people have reported getting used to this, uh, sensation – and actually starting to become reliant on them to a degree. I do quite like the refreshing feeling after wanting to rip my own eyeballs out, so maybe it’s one to carry on with until my eyes lose the last bit of feeling they’ve got and they just become useless balls rolling around in my skull.

The strength part of these refers to the strength of the eye pain you’ll experience. Or something. I don’t know, but these ones are apparently in the middle – good luck if you end up buying Strength 3, that’s all I’ll say.

Lycee Eye Drops – £9.95, Amazon

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Isehan Heroine Mascaras

These mascaras are Holy Grail in Japan – as you can see by those little stickers above. In such a saturated beauty market, to have something so well loved must be a good sign, so obviously I picked up two at around 600 yen each. That packaging is ridiculously cute too!

The mascara tubes themselves describe their mascara properties as “make long and curl” and “make volume and curl”, depending on what your lashes require. I have very long, curled, dense lashes, so don’t really require much of either thankfully, but the 00s teenager in me loves a spider lash so I’m looking forward to trying these. Time will tell if they’ll replace my new obsession of Essence Lash Princess (seriously, £3 and one of the best mascaras I’ve ever used), but the reviews are certainly up there!

Isehan Heroine Mascara – £12.10, Amazon

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Unicharm Facial Masks

The rumours are true – surgical/facial masks are worn EVERYWHERE in Tokyo. I couldn’t move for the blighters. And I don’t fully understand the phenomenon (I mean, surely they don’t work as illness containers?), but I couldn’t resist picking up a packet, because why not? These ones cost around 250 yen for 7 masks, and apparently are good for defining your face due to the form of the mask. I also saw scented ones, and ones to block out the subway smell… nice. I highly doubt I’ll EVER use these, so, uh, if anyone wants a packet, let me know?

 

Any other recommendations for Japanese beauty products (or any other hidden gems out there)? Let me know!

R xx

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Tokyo, Japan – October 2017

Last year, one lunchtime in December, I was lamenting my lack of travel to Asia to one of my colleagues, after they mentioned their upcoming trip to Singapore. “I’ve been to the Maldives and Kazakhstan, and that’s about it!” I wailed. (Side note – I realise now just how much of a brat I sounded, you don’t have to tell me). It was one of my new year’s resolutions to visit more of Asia that previous year, so I resolved to carry that resolution forward, went on Skyscanner that lunchtime, found £500 return flights to Tokyo with Emirates, and booked it within half an hour.

Speed up to last week, and I was at Heathrow with a friend of mine, boarding the flight that would take us to Dubai and, from there, onto Tokyo!

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The route. It was as boring as you’d imagine.

The flight itself was relatively OK – I’d heard great things about Emirates, but after being spoilt by my Virgin Atlantic experience from my trip to the West Coast earlier this year, I was left slightly disappointed. The entertainment system was great, but the service was a little lacking, the food very restrictive (I’m a pescatarian but couldn’t find the option to book a veggie meal online, so had to eat around the meat in my meal, picking bits of turkey and the like out of pasta salads), and a serious lack of water and drinks throughout the 16 hours I was flying (which, as we all know, is pretty bloody dangerous). It did eventually come to a stop though, and after a solid 16 hours of travel, we landed in Tokyo Haneda at 11pm on Thursday 5th October – absolutely wiped, but other than that, excited about going the furthest east I’ve ever been!

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Because obviously the first thing we’d be greeted with in Japan would be Hello Kitty…

I stayed in the district of Shibuya during my trip – Shibuya is one of the central wards of Tokyo, and a main transport hub through Shibuya Station, which, as a lazy Westerner, greatly appealed to me. It’s one of the main shopping areas in Tokyo too, along with Shinjuku which was where my friend stayed (a 12 minute subway ride away) – and home to the famous Scramble Crossing…

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Shibuya Crossing, otherwise known as the ‘Scramble Crossing’, in the rain. Flurry of umbrellas!

My hotel was a hop, skip and jump from Shibuya train station, where our direct coach from Haneda dropped us off (the coach was 1000 yen each way before 12am – around £6.00). I stayed at the Shibuya Granbell Hotel, which appears to be a mini boutique chain in Tokyo (there was also a branch in Shinjuku where my friend stayed). The hotel itself was in a great location, and was relatively nice and modern – the room was, however TINY (as you’d expect in central Tokyo!). For those of you who don’t know, I’m 5’11” so was expecting my stay to be mildly uncomfortable compared to other countries with a taller population, but Jesus Christ this was insane! At least they gave me a free nightgown (which actually fit!), and nice toiletries, though…

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Real life picture of me in my hotel room

In the morning, I decided to go on the metro to Harajuku – a district of Tokyo well known in the west for its colourful and imaginative youth culture and fashion scene (see also, Gwen Stefani’s legendary 2004 single Harajuku Girls).

(Quick note on the metro here – once you get used to it it’s actually very easy to figure out, but to the uninitiated it can be incredibly complex and tough to manage. Shibuya is one of the main hubs on the circular JR East Yamanote subway line, which connects a large number of main stations in Tokyo, including Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ueno and Tokyo. It also connects to the metro lines, including Ginza (which I took to visit the temple at Asakusa, more info on THAT below), but if you get really overwhelmed I’d stick with the Yamanote line as it’ll get you to some pretty decent tourist destinations. Fares were dirt cheap for all of the public transport methods – there are maps which you can use to work out your fare for different destinations, but generally speaking, it ranges from 140-210 yen each way – around 90p-£1.40)

Harajuku was a great first experience of Tokyo – it combined the insanity of Japan with some Western influences (including, randomly, a Claire’s Accessories, a branch of Lush, and one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants), and was home to our first activity in Tokyo – a CAT CAFE!

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CAT TREE

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CAT IN A BOWL

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CAT LOUNGING N STUFF

It cost 200 yen (£1.30) per 10 minutes to visit the Cat Cafe, with the option of buying treats for the cats (500 yen a packet – £3.30), and unlimited drinks for 350 yen (£2.30) from a vending machine. Overall, we stayed about half an hour and paid around 1200 yen (£8), including the drinks. Not too shabby!

We then went on to discover more of Harajuku’s Takeshita Street, which included more crepe stands than you can shake a stick at, drugstores, the aforementioned Western shops, bizarre tiny fashion boutiques, and lots of crazy beauty gadgets like dimple creators and double eyelid tape (side note: I will be doing a Japanese beauty blogpost in the next few days, so keep an eye out!).

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Not my picture, but a good image of the entrance to Takeshita Street, Harajuku

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Again, not my pictures (my crappy iPhone battery couldn’t handle the fluoro lights!)

The evening was spent wandering the streets of Shibuya, seeing Hachiko ( ❤ ), and being amazed at how incredible the Scramble Crossing was (seriously, what a view!). We also popped to Genki Sushi in Shibuya, which was an INCREDIBLE experience for a tech geek like me. Think electronic robot sushi trains, partnered with iPad screens for ordering, and incredible sushi for 80p. Amazing! You can see a video of this below:

 

Next day, we hung out seperately in our respective areas (Shibuya and Shinjuku), and met up in the evening to go to the Golden Gai in Shinjuku.

 

 

The Golden Gai is a tiny group of interconnected alleyways with bars, pubs and clubs, most of which are no bigger than a box room. It’s a fascinating insight into “old” Tokyo, and is relatively expensive to drink there with plenty of cover charges and inflated alcohol prices (despite it originally being a fairly rundown area of Tokyo, rife with prostitution). We stopped at a tiny “pub” which sold pints of Azaki for 800 yen (£5)…

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The next day, we headed to Asakusa to visit the ancient Buddhist temple Sensō-ji – to get there from Shibuya I took the Ginza Metro line and rode it all the way to Asakusa station (yay for direct lines with air conditioning!). Asakusa is a district in east Tokyo, so took around 45 mins from Shibuya which is in the west of the city, but it was great to see another area of Tokyo!

The Sensō-ji temple is one of the biggest in Japan and the oldest in Tokyo. I’m not particularly au fait with Buddhism as a religion, but I’m always up for learning more and experiencing it in a respectful way.

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The worst possible fortune I could have received!

The temple was busy but absolutely outstanding. So unbelievably beautiful, and a really special place in a lot of ways. I think it was one of the only times I’ve felt small in Tokyo!

We then practiced the ancient Japanese art of karaoke in the evening with a friend who happened to be in Tokyo at exactly the same time! We went to Karaoke Kan in Shibuya, which is the same karaoke establishment featured in Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost In Translation’. Unfortunately, I didn’t see my weird celebrity crush Bill Murray, but I did enjoy sing-shouting many a Britpop anthem (top tip for karaoke in groups – if it makes a good football chant, it’ll make a good group karaoke song. For example, ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawumba and anything by Oasis).

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Last day! After drinking a LOT of sake and things I can’t fully remember, we got up and went back to Shinjuku to check out the Tokyo Government Building. This is the cheaper (read: free) equivalent to the Skytree which offers breathtaking views of the entirety of Tokyo, and contains two observation decks in each tower. After being sped up 45 flights in about 30 seconds (cue: popping ears), we got to the top where there was a cafe, restaurant, toilets and gift shops, as well as some pretty outstanding views…

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Beautiful, no?

If you want to visit to see these views, I’d recommend either going really early or really late – there were quite a few people there when we went, and I’d imagine it could get incredibly busy during the day. After this, we went to the airport and hopped back on the plane(s) to Dubai and Laaaandaaaan.

I absolutely loved Tokyo. The people were insanely friendly and polite, the food and drink was excellent and cheap as hell, and it was clean and relatively easy to get around and see the amazing sights. Plus, who doesn’t love somewhere you can see Mario Kart literally being lived out on the hustle and bustle of genuine roads?!

GO AS SOON AS YOU CAN!

R xx

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Edinburgh, Scotland – September 2017

Birthday month! And with it comes a new trip (obviously). This year, I decided to spend my birthday in beautiful Edinburgh – one of my favourite cities, and home to kilts, bagpipe music, diabetes-inducing tablet, and whiskey a go-go. Wanna hear about it? Of course you do! Read on…

I flew into Edinburgh from Gatters on Thursday 7th September – the flight was surprisingly empty considering it was a late one, and only took around 1.5 hours in total. Arrived at Edinburgh Airport where I promptly caught the bus and travelled to the city centre – namely Waverley Station, where my hotel was..

Side note – the hotel I stayed at was Motel One, this awesome German chain which I swear by. Everything is always clean, well designed and incredibly reasonably priced. They’ve opened in a fair few cities now, so I’d always check whether they’re around before booking your mini break in a European city. 10/10.

(not my image, cheers Google)

I woke up a year older the next day (and feeling it), and after a hearty breakfast of croissants and Danish pastries, decided to hit the town.

It wasn’t my first trip in Edinburgh – I visited with an ex boyfriend a few years back – but it was my first time solo – and instead of doing the typical tourist stuff, I decided to go and visit some of the ‘burbs. I went shopping in the morning and had a gel mani/pedi (obviously), but then met a friend and her beautiful baby in Stockbridge for a birthday lunch at The Pantry, Stockbridge.

 

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This was an adorable little cafe, with space for little ones, and outrageously good things like smoked salmon and soft cheese bagels with pickles and crispy salmon skin. Yummers. After this, we strolled down into Stockbridge and did a bit of vintage shop browsing, whilst I wished I had more money.

I spent the evening hanging out with another friend and his girlfriend in various whiskey and cocktail bars, after having a beautiful meal at the Printing Press on George Street. The whiskey and cocktail bars were absolutely outrageous in the best way possible – especially Lucky Liquor with its bizarre ever-changing menu (seriously, it’s already changed since I went… two weeks ago).

 

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The bar itself had space for maybe 20 people maximum – it was *tiny* – the cocktails rotate every month or so, and let me tell you, they’re not scared of using odd ingredients. On the new menu, you can see that one cocktail contains ketjap manis and cider vinegar… They also sell their own homemade liquors, which I would have absolutely taken advantage of if I hadn’t gone with hand luggage only. Damn my shrewdness!

We then strolled onto a whiskey bar called Usquabae which was a delightful experience, despite me hating whiskey to my core. We were ushered into an underground bar with separate private booths, where we were given a menu of over 400 whiskies. I have the most under-performing palette in existence, so really needed advice which came in the form of our wonderful whiskey waiter (for want of a better phrase), a sweet Canadian guy who blew us away with his ridiculous knowledge of whiskey, as well as his top bantz. I settled for something I can’t remember with a side of water. I despised it, but it had to be done, right? When in Scotland and all that.

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On the stroll back to the hotel, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the city at night. It was just breathtaking – the scenery, the lighting, the bitingly cold air with a light breeze, the clear sky showing off the landscape. Absolutely wonderful – I fell in love a little more than I had before.

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On the final day (told you it was a fleeting visit), I shopped in the morning, stopped off at Baba Budan, a donutterie (yes, you heard that correctly), demolished an apple and cinnamon doughnut, and took more pictures of this beautiful city. Pix below.

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It was then time to go back to the airport to catch yet another delayed flight… the joys!

All in all, I adore Edinburgh. The people are friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the alcohol – although perhaps not to my taste – was flowing. I’ll be back soon, if only because I need more tablet.

Other Things To See In Edinburgh That I Didn’t Do On This Trip

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Camera Obscura
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Walk the Royal Mile
  • Visit Arthur’s Seat
  • Royal Botanic Garden
  • Edinburgh’s Gin Distillery
  • Scottish National Gallery

 

R xx

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Stockholm, Sweden – August 2017

God Morgon! I’ve just flown in from Sweden where I spent a very enjoyable 3 days stuffing my face with pastries, hanging out on a boat with dear friends, and taking in some of the most spectacular architecture I’ve seen in a long time. Wanna hear more? Of course you do!

(I’m writing this post on about 4 hours sleep, so please don’t expect much…)

I flew from London Luton airport at around 3pm on Friday 18th August, after a classic Rosi morning of dilly-dallying, watching cat compilation videos on Youtube, taking Buzzfeed quizzes to find out what kind of baked potato I am, and suddenly remembering I needed to go in 20 minutes and shoving everything into the world’s smallest bag and running out of the door.

(I’d never flown from Luton before so was quite excited to see what it was like. Two words: don’t bother. It was terrible. There you go, saved you a visit.)

I got into Stockholm Arlanda at around 6.30pm local time, and found a coach to take me to the city centre. Stockholm has 4 airports – Arlanda, Bromma, Vasteras, and Skavsta – and Arlanda is the largest and closest of these to the city, taking around 20 minutes if you take the Arlanda Express train, or 45 if you take the coach. I’m an eternal cheapskate so decided to take the Flygbussarna coach for 216SEK (around £22) return. As with most things these days, if you buy online or through the app ahead of your trip, you get about £4 off, but you can buy tickets right there at Arlanda at an information desk or electronic kiosk for the price above.

The hotel I stayed at was the Best Western and hotel (confusing name, good hotel), which was about a ten minute walk from the train station. It’s an embarrassingly simple route to follow but somehow I still got lost (damn Google Maps!) – if you’re a normal human being, you won’t have any problems getting there. The hotel itself was surprisingly good – TINY room, but excellent staff and breakfast, and an easy-breezy tech-savvy check-in service which made me positively giddy. Plus a super comfortable bed, despite it being rammed in between the walls.

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I started off Saturday meeting a friend of mine for brunch at Café Pom & Flora on Odengatan. This cafe was divine – they did a range of very Instagrammable meals, cue the barrage of students buying acai breakfast bowls and hovering their phones above them before devouring the lot. I chose a ‘superfood’ bowl, which contained nuts, chia pudding, natural yoghurt, berry compote and tahini), with a pink lemonade with rhubarb and ginger on the side. This is basically how I looked after this meal:

We then went on a little walk around the city – Eti was a brilliant guide and showed me all of the best shops in Stockholm (she knew her audience), including NK Stockholm, and Svenskt Tenn, neither of which I can afford but which are lovely regardless 😉

 

We also took the opportunity to go on a mini cruise around the archipelago of Stockholm in order for me to see more of the surrounding islands. This was a truly lovely way to spend the afternoon and was quite reminiscent of my time in Oslo (those Scandinavians love a good boat trip) – a few highlights are below:

 

I was absolutely knackered after all of this sight-seeing, so decided to spend Sunday doing some much needed retail therapy at one of Stockholm’s Sunday markets before my evening flight back…

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This was at Hötorget, a lovely little square which holds fruit and vegetable markets during the week, as well as many little flea markets on a Sunday. You will also be able to see the Royal Concert Hall in this picture – the steps of which I hung out on eating a bagel from the Espresso House on the corner, before indulging my inner hipster and buying some vinyls for 5SEK each. I don’t even own a record player, but I couldn’t help picking up some 70s Scandi discs which are now hanging on my bedroom wall. God, I hate myself sometimes.

After all this fun, and so much walking I felt my legs were going to fall off, it was time to depart and leave for the airport, ready for my 9.30pm Sleazyjet flight back to Luton. Boo.

Stockholm is a beautiful city – I’ve always been fond of Sweden and the Scandinavian culture, but had never been to Stockholm, so was very much looking forward to a chilled few days wandering around the city, eating fika and kanelbullar and drinking my beloved Espresso House chai lattes (viva Scandinavia!), and taking in a bit of Scandi chic – and it did not disappoint. So long Sweden, and thanks for all the prinsesstårta!

 

R xx

 

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Travelling On The Cheap

I get a hell of a lot of questions around how I manage to travel *so* cheaply. The cheapest return flight I’ve managed to grab was £18 return from London to Milan, but there have been plenty of bargains out there that I’ve managed to wangle. Indeed, I now work out where I’m going based on the trick below, and running my finger down the list to see where I’ve still yet to go! There is certainly an art to cheap travel, and fortunately for you, I’m about to get you started… the beauty of this trick is that it works with any airport in any country, so wherever you are in the world, check yo’self below:

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Recipe for Cheap Flights
(Serves one intrepid solo traveller)

You will need:

  • An open mind
  • An open itinerary and date range (to get the most out of this trick)
  • Access to the internet

Instructions

  1. First things first, I always check Skyscanner (https://www.skyscanner.net/) before anything else. In most cases, before I even have a destination in mind (see what I mean about needing an open mind?). So, step 1, go to Skyscanner.
  2. In the Flights tab, put in your departing airport. For me it’s usually “London (All)” -obviously, just put whichever airport is closest to you. In all honesty, if you need help with this step, maybe just put your computer or phone in the bin.
  3. In the ‘To’ field, write “Everywhere” and click on it.
  4. In the departure and return dates (either of them), go to “Whole Month” at the top, then click the button which says “Cheapest Month”.
  5. Check or uncheck the ‘direct flights’ box, depending on your preferences. You’ll obviously get more results by unchecking it, it just depends if it’ll be a massive faff for you to transfer airports and the like…
  6. Press ‘Go’.
  7. You should have a list similar to the below…

 

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Now, two things here to note. Firstly, these are all return prices. Secondly, see the ‘from’ part? That’s important – these prices are not guaranteed, but give a good indication of what the prices have been in the past few days. You’ll only get a better idea of up-to-date prices by clicking on the place you’re thinking of going… so, let’s do that!

8) Let’s pretend that I want to go to Paris to eat loads of baguettes and drink wine and flirt outrageously with French men. Paris is in France (duh), so let’s click on the ‘France’ option – you’ll see all of the possible places to fly to in France, so let’s scroll until we find the ‘Paris’ option.

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9) From £54 return? What a bargain! But wait, let’s double check this, as, like I said above, this is what it’s been in the past few days… is it still up to date?

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Perfect! A weekend break in November for £54 return! Let’s show the flights…

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10) So, here’s the fun part – you can see the huge range of flights available on the dates you wanted, and you can refine these using the times, airport, journey duration, and the airline to get exactly the right flight for you. It helps to be a little flexible with this too as often the weirder the time, the cheaper the flight!

Once you’ve found the right deal for you, click ‘select’ and go forth and buy after you’re redirected!

Send me a postcard from your holiday by way of a thank you 😉

R xx

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Montreux, Switzerland – April 2017

Hello, world! Long time no blogging, and for that, I apologise. Life’s been oh so slightly hectic over the past few months, so blogging (and sadly travelling) has taken a bit of a backseat. However, I’m back, sat in a Starbucks with my iPad, listening to a couple argue about boilers, and ready to blog about Switzerland.

*** Please note – this was a company trip, and as such some information will be limited. However, I’ll be happy to gab on about how beautiful Switzerland was, so if you’re here for that, feel free to carry on! ***

I flew to Geneva on Thursday 6th April from Heathrow with BA, and touched down at around 11am. I’ve been to Geneva once before (again, with work!), but this was more a leisurely trip than that time, and also included a tad more travel around Switzerland which I was looking forward to. The transfer to Montreux took around an hour in total, and we got to our hotel (the Grand Hôtel Suisse-Majestic) at 1pm or so.

The hotel was absolutely stunning, with beautiful views over Lake Geneva – we were fortunate enough to have a lake view in our room with a balcony (!), so I took advantage of this by sipping cups of tea and coffee in the early hours on the balcony, pretending I was the kind of person who had their life together (you know the sort – swishy shiny hair, impeccable style, woke up naturally at 5am and went on a run – that kind of person. AKA the exact opposite of myself).

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The hotel was slap bang in the middle of Montreux, conveniently situated opposite the main train station (which proved especially useful for one of the excursions). We were about a 10 minute walk from the town centre, but the buses were plentiful if you were feeling particularly lazy ;)…

 

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We walked a little further and took a bus from the city centre to Chillon Castle, a lovely island castle on Lake Geneva. The castle used to be a prison, and held Francois de Bonivard for six years in 1530 – Lord Byron developed a fascination with the prisoner and castle, and carved his name on a pillar of the dungeon that held him. Plus it was apparently the castle in the Little Mermaid (exciting stuff, natch).

 

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One of the most exciting highlights of the trip (for me!) was the Cheese Train from Montreux up through the Swiss Alps. This consisted of sitting on the most adorable train in existence, and stopping off intermittently to eat raclette. As you can imagine, it was a real highlight for me.

 

 

I love Switzerland and the friendliness of the people just about overrides the ridiculous prices (a diet Coke for £6? Really?). Plus the scenery speaks for itself – absolutely breathtaking! If you go, be sure to take a variety of all-weather clothes just in case you fancy a hike (for obvious reasons I did not), and for God’s sake, leave some room in your bag for raclette 😉

R xx

Next Plans and a Question

Hi all,

Busy time of year for me at the moment, sorry fellow travelheads! However, I’ve still found time to plan a few more trips (natch) – please see below for updated 2017 itinerary 😉

  • Stockholm in August
  • Japan in October
  • Luxembourg in October
  • Barcelona in November (for work, but still…)

It’s my 29th birthday at the start of September, and I’ve already booked the day off… but, as it’s on a Friday this year, it would be rude not to take advantage of this and go somewhere, for the weekend right? So my question is, dear readers, where to go?

Reminder of where I’ve been…

Here’s the criteria…

  • Cheap
  • Under 4 hours’ flying time from the UK (ideally)
  • Somewhere I haven’t been before

Gogogo!

R x

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West Coast, USA – April/May 2017

Here it is y’all, what you’ve all been waiting for – the write up of the mega, 3000 mile road trip I did by myself, around the west coast of America in the age of Trump! It’s taken a while to sit down and write this – in all honesty because, over the past week, I’ve been at the mercy of the jetlag gods for possibly one of the first times in my life. (Does this mean I’m getting old?). I’ve also had a ridiculously busy week at work, which I shan’t bore you about, but I’ve now got a nice cup of tea, some homemade shortbread, and I’m ready to fill you in on one of the longest two weeks of my life. Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

The Plan

I had already been to 24 states prior to this trip, thanks to my unabashed love of the USA and my bucket-list thirst to visit all 50. What I hadn’t done, however, was visit the West Coast. In a rare moment of boredom one lunchtime at work last year, I had a look at the plausibility of renting a car and driving in a loop to tick off 7 more states, and I came up with the below plan…

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As you can see, it’s borderline insane, because I have no clear sense of time or space, and somehow in a moment of madness I thought that 2608 miles around 7 states was “probably doable”.

So I booked it.

I booked a return flight from LHR to LAX with Virgin Atlantic (only £550 which was pretty bloody fantastic if you ask me), hired a car (a midsize SUV, because ain’t nobody gon’ mess with a girl in an SUV, I thought), and booked a few hotels along the way. Full itenirary below, if you’re as insane as I was last August and think that this sounds like fun:

LA > San Diego > Phoenix > Albuquerque > Denver > Salt Lake City > Las Vegas > LA

28th April – 12th May 2017 – 2 weeks

Friday 28th April – 3.45pm flight to LA from Heathrow – land in LA at 7pm.
Saturday 29th April – LA > San Diego (2.5 hour drive)
Sunday 30th April – San Diego > Phoenix (5.5 hour drive)
Monday 1st May – Stay in Phoenix
Tuesday 2nd May – Phoenix > Albuquerque (6.5 hour drive)
Wednesday 3rd May – Albuquerque > Denver (6.5 hour drive – the second one in two days, ouch)
Thursday 4th May – Stay in Denver
Friday 5th May – Denver > Rock Springs WY (5 hour drive)
Saturday 6th May – Rock Springs WY > Salt Lake City (3 hour drive)
Sunday 7th May – Stay in Salt Lake City
Monday 8th May – Salt Lake City > Las Vegas (6 hour drive)
Tuesday 9th May – Stay in Las Vegas – go to Grand Canyon
Wednesday 10th May – Las Vegas > Los Angeles (4 hour drive)
Thursday 11th May – Stay in Los Angeles
Friday 12th May – Go back home – 8.55pm flight from LA to Heathrow – land in London at 4pm Saturday

Of course, like most things I tend to organise, things changed ever so slightly and I ended up not staying in Denver or Rock Springs (for reasons I shall explain below) and crossing Wyoming in a day (0/10, would not recommend to a friend). Ready for the breakdown, as well as some pro tips in case you do decide to replicate this absolutely ridiculous trip? Leggo.

Friday 28th April – 3.45pm flight to LA from Heathrow – land in LA at 7pm.

As mentioned, I took a flight from Heathrow to LAX at 3.45pm on Friday 28th April. As is tradition, I took full advantage of my Priority Pass and lounged for a good 2 hours in the No 1 Traveller lounge at Terminal 3 beforehand (I’ll write up a review of this lounge in my *brand new* lounge review series, coming soon!), before making my way to the gate and onto the plane.

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I hadn’t flown Virgin Atlantic before, somehow amazingly, and I’m a convert after that first flight. Excellent entertainment system, attentive staff, chairs that swung back like a hammock much to my exhausted amusement… the fact that they gave me a mini Fab ice lolly while I was flying over Greenland gave them major brownie points too…

I landed at LAX at around 5pm Los Angeles time – 2 hours early, for some reason – glided through security in about five minutes (surprisingly, considering all of the recent news… #whitegirlprivilege), picked up my suitcase, and made my way to the car rental place where I picked up this bad boy:

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Pro tip alert: make sure you select that you’d like GPS in the car. If you leave it until you reach the car hire desk, they’ll bump the cost up by £300+ – not ideal. If this does happen, be aware that you can always buy a GPS system from the Walmart/Best Buy nearby for $100, taking good care of it, and returning it at the end within the 15 day return policy for a full refund… but don’t say I told you so, ahem…

With my newly acquired TomTom in tow (;)), I made my way to the Hollywood Hotel, a block from Sunset Boulevard, and the location for my first night. The hotel was exceptional for the cost – parking was excessive ($26 a night!) but secure – and the rooms were clean, comfortable and well decorated, the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the breakfast was plentiful (if not a little carb-heavy, but, y’know, ‘murica). All in all, pretty good! I stayed at this hotel later on in the trip too, where I’ll gab on about how useful the location is, as well as discussing the metro system and how to get to various places in LA. Bet you can’t wait, can you?

Saturday 29th April – LA > San Diego (2.5 hour drive)

I drove down to San Diego early on Saturday morning, after a thoroughly sleepless night (#jetlag). The drive was a little dull, I won’t lie – think a nice mix of traffic and deserty fields – but it only took around 2.5 hours and I was soon in San Diego (which is German for ‘a whale’s vagina’, apparently). I stayed at Hotel Vyvant which has now somehow changed names since I stayed there two weeks ago, but was a really nice little boutique hotel in the middle of Little Italy. Bear in mind – no parking, and a fairly basic breakfast, but great location, super friendly staff and incredibly comfortable beds (plus my en-suite totes had a jacuzzi). I’d highly recommend!

I didn’t do too much in San Diego, bar from walking a considerable amount, sitting by the docks, eating delicious Italian food, and watching the amazing street performances that were going on downtown. Have a few pictures of Little Italy!

 

All in all I really loved San Diego. There was such a warm, friendly vibe there, and the beautiful scenery didn’t hurt! I’m definitely be going back there at some point…

Sunday 30th April – San Diego > Phoenix (5.5 hour drive)

Another early start (and case of jetlag, bleurgh), this time from San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona – an estimated 5.5 hour drive. I actually quite enjoyed this drive – Interstate 8 has lots of amazing scenery, especially when leaving CA, and it was nice to blast music and not really pay attention to anything for five hours or so… 😉

Pro tip alert: be aware that there is a border patrol checkpoint on I-8 East where it’s mandatory to stop. They may just wave you through like they did for me (despite my highly British stutter while repeating “do you want me to pull over?”) but be aware that you will need to stop!

Once I got to Arizona, I settled into my last minute hotel, the Red Roof Inn Phoenix North on Bell Road. I really wouldn’t recommend this hotel – it was run-down, very unfriendly, and located in the arse-end of nowhere, but it was very much a last-minute choice so I’m going to give myself a little bit of credit here 😉 there’s an Applebees within a five minute walk, as well as a Denny’s across the highway and a slightly battered Italian restaurant next door to the hotel, but other than that there’s really not too much going for the place. Maybe choose somewhere else 😉

Monday 1st May – Stay in Phoenix

I spent the ‘rest’ day in Phoenix hanging out with my lovely friend Aaron (of Aaron Markus Media, check out his site!), who took me to an awesome coffee place where they basically served rocket fuel in espresso cups, and then onto the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park…

This was honestly incredible – I’d never seen anything like this scenery, including CACTI SAY WHAT, and it was a beautiful place to see the rest of Phoenix, as well as all of the glorious nature surrounding it. Brilliant. I would, however, recommend not wearing Primark ballet pumps whilst you’re hiking up there. Take it from me.

After some time spent in the Arizonan sun (far too strong for this pasty-ass Brit), we stopped off at a microbrewery and restaurant called Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert AZ, where I drank delicious local beer and ate something called Belgian waffle-battered onion rings served with a sriracha-maple ketchup. I just can’t. IT WAS SO GOOD.

Phoenix was one of those cities I don’t feel I saw enough of, unfortunately – there was far more to see there then the small amount I managed to experience, but time wasn’t my friend here, and it was onto the next destination 24 hours later…

Tuesday 2nd May – Phoenix > Albuquerque (6.5 hour drive)

I’m not going to lie to you, dear readers, this drive was a chore. Desert after desert, dry field after dry field, with barely any respite. Listening to old Now! compilations and witty British podcasters like Adam Buxton was the only way to get over the incessant dullness. It may be worth breaking this drive up into chunks if you decide to replicate this trip – maybe to Gallup, NM if you go via I-40E, where there looks to be a lot of gorgeous red rock formations and nice little hotels.

ABQ was really just a stop gap for me – I’m not going to lie and tell you it was amazing, because I really only saw a tiny part of it (although the Quality Inn & Suites on West Iliff Road does serve a delicious breakfast). However, I will say that seeing Heisenberg’s residence in the flesh was a personal highlight – as was talking to the adorable elderly lady who lives there, who told me all about meeting Bryan Cranston and the swoonworthy Aaron Paul (bitch!). If you want to go and see the property, it’s located at 3828 Piermont Dr NE Albuquerque, NM 87111 – although please be respectful and courteous as there are actual residents there. AKA, don’t throw a pizza on the roof.

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Wednesday 3rd May – Albuquerque > Denver (6.5 hour drive – the second one in two days, ouch)

The second 6.5 hour drive in 48 hours. Again, would not recommend – but at least this time I’d have a few days in one place before the next stretch of drive. I was looking forward to Colorado – a few friends live/had lived there, and I’d heard great things about Denver, possibly the most liberal city in the States (aside from Portland, which sounds like a hipster paradise thanks to Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen). I’d booked in to stay at the Ramada Denver Downtown, which, on Hotels.com, looked like a delightful rustic mountain lodge, slap bang in a relatively dodgy area of Denver (although I didn’t know this at the time…). However, it turned into easily one of the worst hotels I’d ever stayed at. Shabby decor, really unhygienic room, terrible customer service (outwardly rude and hostile), and borderline inedible breakfast. The cherry on the shit sundae was the fact that the Wifi was down, as well as the phone in my room – so when a man nearly broke down my door at 3am by punching it repeatedly, I couldn’t actually contact anyone, so had to keep myself to myself, having an anxiety attack under the duvet and quietly sobbing so he didn’t hear me. Possibly the worst day of the trip.

Pro tip alert: if you want to change your trip at all, please remember that you can. You’re not under any obligation to do the exact route you planned out, and you have nothing to prove to anyone. Things change – be flexible and open-minded in order to fully enjoy your trip.

Thursday 4th May – Stay in Denver Superior

7am, I was out of the shitty hotel in my Jeep, headed northwards towards Boulder, and booked into a brilliant La Quinta Inn in Superior CO, near a plethora of excellent shops, beautiful mountain scenery and incredibly friendly people. I was so relieved to get out of the absolute shithole that was the Ramada, that I decided to change my plans, stay an extra night in the La Quinta, and forego my trip to Rock Springs – instead, choosing to drive across Wyoming in a day, which I’m glad I did.

The afternoon was spent shopping and eating Caesar salads, because #stressrelief. Also because I found a huge ULTA next to a Super Target. Natch.

Friday 5th May – Denver > Rock Springs WY (5 hour drive) Friday 5th May – Stay in Superior and hang around Boulder pretending to be back at university

On the Friday, instead of driving to Rock Springs in Wyoming, I decided to go and hang out with my friend Tom at his college campus in Boulder, CO – about a fifteen minute drive from my lifesaver of a hotel in Superior. Boulder was absolutely gorgeous – amazing scenery, lovely weather, friendly people. I also managed to get a tan for the first time all trip as Tom made me walk all over the damn campus which was HUGE. Goddammit, Tom.

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We stopped off at an awesome little independent pizza place called Boss Lady Pizza, which was 100% female owned and ran (hence the name). Tom knows his feminist audience, that’s for sure! I ate the biggest pizza slice I’ve ever had, which was roughly the size of my head (I can highly recommend the Veggie Hawaiian, paired with Bossy Sauce to dip), and, ignoring the gradual stomach aches from ingesting so much gluten at once, we did a final lap of the campus, and then drove up through and around the Flatirons.

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I really loved Boulder – so much so that I regret not going to university there, that campus was amazing! – but it was time to move onto the next destination…

Saturday 6th May – Rock Springs WY Superior CO > Salt Lake City (8 hour drive)

This drive was literally a field. I don’t even have any pictures because it was so insanely dull. You’ll just have to trust me that I did this drive across the whole of Wyoming – all 8 hours of it – and hated every minute because of the distinct lack of anything remotely interesting. Anyway, I got to SLC at around 6pm, checked into my hotel, the Ramada Salt Lake City North Temple (yes, another Ramada, and yes, it was a similar state to the previous one… suffice it to say I won’t be staying in another Ramada for a long time), and slept, because I was knackered after an entire day of driving through the world’s biggest field. The next day was slightly more interesting, though…

Sunday 7th May – Stay in Salt Lake City

When I was in the depths of despair during #denvergate at 3 in the morning, I put a call out on a Facebook group called ‘Girls Love Travel’ to see if anyone was in SLC/the surrounding area and fancied hanging out when I was there. Fortunately, a lovely lady called Kristin replied and asked if I wanted to join her and some of her friends for brunch, to which I sent a very enthusiastic message back (brunch and good company? Hell yeah!).

Kristin picked me up from my hotel, and took me on a little driving tour of SLC, including stopping off at an adorable urban flea market  where I picked up some dirt cheap vintage goodies, including a 1920s camera in its original leather casing (!!). We met up with a friend of hers, and spent a good few hours pacing the market (seriously, why can’t we have things like that in the UK? Decent markets, rather than naff markets which sell bowls of clothes pegs and pirated Peter Andre CDs). After sufficient pacing, we went to Current Fish & Oyster for brunch, where I chowed down on a pear mimosa and some Crab Benedict which was exceptional and made me feel super classy all day.

We then headed up to the University of Utah to see the Winter Olympic village and stadium, as well as a gorgeous little park called Red Butte Garden where I pretended to be a nature photographer, as evidenced below:

Last stop on the tour of Salt Lake City was the Salt Lake Temple, in Temple Square – the largest LDS (Mormon) temple by floor area, and a personal highlight of SLC for me. I’ve been interested in Mormonism for a while now (as I am with most “subcultures” of society), so I was really looking forward to seeing this. And it did not disappoint:

Those Mormons know how to build a church and plant a garden! I’ve never seen a more spotless park in my entire life!

All in all, it was an amazing day, and I have to give a massive thanks to Kristin for being my SLC tour guide and showing me the sights – another example of the Internet working wonders! There’s always space at mine if you want to roam around the UK, girl 🙂

Monday 8th May – Salt Lake City > Las Vegas (6 hour drive)

Another relatively long drive, this time to Vegas! I took the I-15S down to Sin City, throughout Southern Utah (which was beautiful, by the way – it’s definitely one of my favourite states in terms of epic scenery!), and arrived in Vegas a casual 6 hours later.

Pro tip alert: don’t drive in Vegas. Ever. Trust me on this – park outside and take a taxi or Uber in, or something. That is not a car-friendly city. Plus you’ll want to run over all of the tourists after driving 6 hours in desert heat, and it’ll only be the realization of how awful prison is that will stop you from doing so.

I know this will disappoint all of my fellow twenty-somethings, and it’s proof that I am a grandma of the highest order, but I mostly used Vegas as a stop-gap and somewhere to explore the Grand Canyon from. By this, I mean I didn’t partyI know. In a way, I’m glad of this – how sad would it be for me to party by myself? – but Vegas is most definitely a party city, and somewhere to go in a big group so you can all take advantage of the excess. It is ridiculously expensive, so bear that in mind, but if you’re smart you can get some great offers and maximise the crap out of the city.

I stayed at the Linq, a convenient hotel owned by Caesars on the strip (as most Caesars hotels are). The hotel itself was absolutely ridiculous – the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel was outside my room, standing at 550ft tall. Maths fans, that’s 544ft taller than me – and there were a number of insane-looking restaurants, bars, shops (including a tattoo parlour) and amenities inside the place. It wasn’t that expensive – I paid £75 a night, not including resort fees, and got a continental breakfast and a very decent room for that price. Not too shabby.

Pro tip alert: a large percentage of Vegas hotels charge a resort fee – anywhere up to $35 a night on top of the hotel room price. This was a shock to me – I ended up paying $60 additional for Wifi which should be free anyway, and a fitness centre I didn’t even use, which I naturally kicked up a fuss about (really? The fitness centre? In VEGAS?). Be aware of this, and try and choose a hotel that won’t charge you on top of the room rate – there’s quite a good list here with all fees and fee-free hotels listed.

I wish I could say I had a crazy night and ended up marrying an Elvis impersonator at the Little White Chapel, but in all honesty, I had the world’s most insane Caesar salad and a delicious Dirty Martini at Hash House A Go Go, wandered around the strip, gambled an entire $20, and then went to bed. In my defence, I had to be up at 5.30am for…

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Well, not an insane salad, but…

Tuesday 9th May – Stay in Las Vegas – go to Grand Canyon

I’ve been wanting to visit the Grand Canyon for years. The sheer size and beauty of it didn’t really come across on TV or in the movies, and my bucket list was aching at the thought of being able to experience it and tick it off while I was actually in the area. During #denvergate, I decided to have something to look forward to, and found the absolutely brilliant GC Tours offering Grand Canyon coach trips for $79 for the day including breakfast and lunch. I opted for the South Rim tour, which included a visit to the Hoover Dam, a photo stop on Route 66, and a whole 3 hours at the Grand Canyon, as well as picking me up and dropping me off at my hotel. I won’t lie, the thought of not driving again in Vegas was another huge reason I decided to go for this coach trip.

I woke up super early – the coach picked us up at 6.15am outside the Linq in the tour lobby – and was greeted by a really friendly driver. We then shifted onto a luxury coach, were given a breakfast, and were soon on our way. I can’t for the life of me remember the tour driver’s name, but she was Hawaiian, very sweet and knowledgeable about the entire route and attractions, and unbelievably patient, as my fellow passengers were incredibly irritating.

We stopped off first at the Hoover Dam, where I took loads of pictures and tried to pick my jaw up off the ground:

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Absolutely ridiculous, no?

We then headed up to the Canyon, via a few little towns which I’ve forgotten the names of #toptraveller. And here’s where the problems begin…

Bearing in mind, Vegas is situated in a desert. It was roughly 32 degrees when I left in the morning, so I was dressed appropriately (strappy top, jeans, ballet pumps) and imagined the Grand Canyon would be similarly hot.

I imagined wrong.

It was foggy, rainy, snowing somehow, and as a result I barely got to see any of the canyon. A colossal disappointment all round. Have some pictures anyway!

 

 

Wednesday 10th May – Las Vegas > Los Angeles (4 hour drive)

Another long drive through desert, but – and this is important! – I videoed some of it using my generic Go Pro and some duct tape! Link to be up shortly, I know you can’t wait 😉
Thursday 11th May – Stay in Los Angeles

I decided to use my penultimate day to bum around Los Angeles – namely ticking things off my bucket list like “see the Hollywood sign” and “put my handprints in Marilyn Monroe’s at the Chinese Theatre” (both of which I did!).

I stayed at the Hollywood Hotel again (one of my favourite hotels all trip – seriously, such a good deal!), which was conveniently located 5 minutes from the Metro stations Vermont/Santa Monica, and Vermont/Sunset. I enjoyed a long lie in, a massive breakfast in true Rosi fashion (the logic here being that if a hotel offers a free breakfast, max it out so you don’t have to pay for lunch. It’s pretty efficient!), and sauntered on down to the Metro to hop on the red line and go to Hollywood Boulevard.

The Metro in LA isn’t half bad actually. I come from the school of thought that the London Underground is the best public transit system in the world (and I will fight anyone who disagrees), but the Metro wasn’t too shabby, if you ignore the fact that the trains seem to come once every ten minutes. I took the red line from Vermont/Santa Monica to Hollywood/Highland (towards North Hollywood) and stopped off to catch a film at the TCL Chinese Theater (Guardians of the Galaxy 2, if you were interested, which was very good). After this, I grabbed some food, and headed outside to see the foot/handprints and stars:

 

Did a little bit of shopping, last minute souvenirs, etc. and headed on back to the hotel in order to pack (see also: sit on my suitcase until it closes) and gather everything up ready to fly back to the UK on the Friday.

 

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If you made it this far, congratulations! WordPress is telling me I’ve written 4200 words, which even for me is ridiculous, so I’ll leave it here I think. All in all, it was an amazing trip – I learnt a lot about myself, my tolerance and complete lack of patience for long car journeys, ate too much, drank too much, laughed a lot, was bored out of my mind a lot (I never want to see the inside of a Jeep ever again), and had a bloody great time.

If you have any questions about the trip, or are interested in taking a trip yourself, please feel free to email me or comment on this ‘ere post – more than happy to help!

Until next time…!

R x

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Airport Lounge Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, T2, LAX

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles, California! I’ve been a bit busy as of late, driving almost 3000 miles around 7 states by myself over the course of 2 weeks (more on that later!), but I’m currently sat in an airport lounge waiting to board a plane back to London, stuffing myself with cookies whilst simultaneously bemoaning the fact that I’m going to have to start dieting the second I land at Heathrow, and thought it might be a good idea to start doing airport lounge reviews on this here blog. Because why not?

 

It’s no secret that I love airports – so much so that I decided to invest in a Priority Pass a few months ago. The PP allows me complimentary access to pretty much any airport lounge (bar business/upper class), guests costing only £15, and was about £70 for the year, as I recall. This is an absolute bargain, especially considering lounge access alone is usually £40 a pop (and you can usually find a great deal on Groupon for the annual pass, shh!)…

 

As soon as I got to LAX and had sold my soul to TSA for easy security access, I immediately had a look at lounges. Annoyingly, there were only two that I could see on the app – the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse all the way over in Terminal 5, and conveniently the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge in Terminal 2, which was a few steps away. I showed the lady on the reception desk my pretentiousness black and gold PP card, signed some document to prove that I was a human being and not some buffet-devouring robot (little does she know), and then entered the lounge.

 

It’s quite a spacious lounge, and immediately I noticed the plethora of alcoholic drinks and mixers available (of course). The food choices were somewhat lacking – couscous kale salad, houmous, salad, tortilla chips, apples and cookies – but the drink selection more than made up for it. It was probably a good thing that the food selection was small and relatively healthy – after two weeks of eating waffles and gas station sandwiches, I felt like Gwyneth tucking into couscous salad with kale. Jesus, what have I become?

 

The entertainment options were slightly lacking – a few magazines, the TV set on CNN where the glorious Anderson Cooper was discussing Trump and the whole FBI debacle, free Wifi… however, there were also complimentary showers which was a nice touch (most other lounges charge for this). Free unlimited Wifi throughout the lounge with quite a good connection, and a standalone charging station with no time limit (thank GOD) which was also free to use.

 

All in all, worth going to if you’re bored at LAX and don’t mind paying a fee if you’re non-PP (from memory I think the woman mentioned it was $45 to the people behind me).

 

Drink selection: 4/5

Food selection: 2/5

Entertainment: 2/5

Technology (free Wifi, charging stations etc): 4/5

 

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