My Autumn Zara Favourites

I am not going to pretend I am some kind of fashion expert, honestly, I am quite the opposite. It’s a rare day when you see me out of my beloved gym leggings. Anyway, this year I decided would be different, I would wear ‘normal person’ clothes. So I decided to start expanding my wardrobe, and now it is safe to say I am totally addicted and can’t keep any money in my bank account. So that’s fun… I wanted to share with you some of the things I bought and why I love them, mostly because Zara’s online store is a bloody nightmare. I don’t know what it is about Zara but nothing looks the same on the website as it does in person. Anytime I buy anything in the store and later see it online I am shocked. Most of the things I choose in person I think look awful on the website. – Maybe that’s just me 🙂 Long story short, for that reason I have included links to all of the items I include in this post.

I am going to start with a pair of shoes that are very close to my heart not to mention they are only 25.95euro. You can find them on the Zara website by clicking here. – I would recommend you size down in these.

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Zara Velvet Platform Sneakers

Next up and potentially my favourite item, is this funky wool jumper with contrasting fur sleeves. It is really comfortable and it has the perfect sized turtle neck. I always find it hard to find turtle neck jumpers that don’t make your neck look a foot long. This jumper will set you back 49.95euro and I wear a size ‘S’. To shop this jumper click here.

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Zara Wool Jumper with Contrasting Cuffs

The next item on the list is such a simple but brilliant bag. Do you ever go to events that a cross body clutch isn’t really appropriate but you don’t want to carry around a bag in your hand all night? This bag is the answer. It has a hoop for hooking around your arm and a detachable chain so you can wear it as a cross body if you want. It is only 25.95euro and it is available in Black and Kaki Green. Note: You won’t be fitting much more then your phone, money and lip gloss into it. Find it here.

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Zara Black Suede Wallet

Next up is the ultimate snuggly winter knit. Keep this one for the cold days because it is tooooooasty.  Although this one has a big neck, it is perfect when you fold it the right way. It is long so I wore tucked into jeans, get it now for 39.95 here. I got a ‘M’.

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Zara Oversized Roll Neck Sweater

Next up are these little boots, maybe it’s my horse riding roots but I totally fell in love with them when I saw them in the shop. They are so comfy and you surprisingly don’t have to wear them in as you have to with other leather boots. Avoid the blisters and grab these for 39.95euro. They are true to size but weirdly make my feet look really long. Shop these boots here.

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Zara Flat Ankle Boots with Studs

So, yes, I do buy some of my clothes in the Kid’s section, and no, I am not teeny tiny. The sizes are surprisingly big and they are usually more then half the price of the ladies clothes! This skirt is really comfy, the material is nicely stretchy so you don’t feel restricted when you sit down. The best part is it’s only 12.95euro – BARGAIN, get your hands on it here. Comes in Pink, Bottle Green and Dark Blue too. I got a 13-14yrs and I can tuck a bulky jumper into it.

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Zara Moleskin Skirt – Kids

I hope you have found this post helpful for anyone else stuck in the ‘active wear’ way of life, it is a slow transition but I think accepting you have a problem is the first step. Anyway feel free to Subscribe to emails below and follow my Instagram account for more Clothes, Nice Food and the Occasional Workout.

Peace and Love,

The Girlo on the Go xx

 

The Oitavos Hotel Cascais, Portugal

The blue tinted mirrored panels give nothing away when you pull up at the Oitavos Hotel Cascais, Portugal. Upon entering reception, you will think you are back at the airport terminal or maybe even in an Ikea with the high ceilings, long corridors and expansive seating areas. A peculiar hotel we thought at first. Our opinions soon changed. Within 24 hours the spacious and modern hotel proved to be a not only extremely luxurious but it was the ideal location to totally wind down and relax. The numerous seating areas all over the ground floor made it possible to totally seclude yourself from the rest of the guests and dive into a good book.

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The Oitavos Hotel, Cascais

 

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The Oitavos Infinity Pool

The Rooms: 

The rooms were as I described the lobby, they were huge with high ceilings, big windows and modern cube style decor. The rooms had large balconies and a ‘sitting room’ area with a couch and a television. For those who like baths you will not find many like the ones in the Oitavos hotel. I will say you would want to be comfortable around the people you are going with because there is merely a screen of glass between the main room, the shower and the toilet.

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The Bedroom at The Oitavos Hotel
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The Bathroom at The Oitavos Hotel

The Food: 

This hotel was luxurious in every sense of the word, the buffet breakfast had a wide range of options, everyone could find something they loved. There were 4 types of dining the hotel offered throughout the day. There was a pool bar open during lunch hours which served small ‘Tapa’ style plates. There was a bar menu inside which also included some tapas as well as a selection of sandwiches, they served food from this menu until 11pm. The main restaurant was open for both lunch and dinner with totally different menus. The main restaurant was the most sophisticated out of the three. They also had a Sushi bar that was open from Wednesday through to Sunday in the evenings. The hotel had loads of options for food but they took advantage of the fact the hotel was remote. The food was good but it wasn’t cheap, if you are sitting around by the pool all day and don’t want to eat in the hotel is it a decent walk to any other restaurant and there is no supermarket within a 30 minute walk of the place (as far as I am aware anyway). I will be doing a post on where to eat in the surrounding areas in my next blog post so keep an eye out for that.

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The famous Custard Tarts @ the breakfast buffet
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Dessert @ the Main restaurant
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Club Sandwich from the Bar menu

The Facilities: 

Some of the facilities that can be found at the Oitavos Hotel include; an outdoor swimming pool, snooker table, numerous televisions on the ground floor, a spa with numerous treatments available, Balneotherapy area (sauna, steam room & indoor swimming pool) which you can pay for access to (it is nice but not with 25euro pp per day in my opinion), a small gym and complimentary shuttle to Cascais and the beach at set times throughout the day. There is a sport centre up the road from the hotel with a large gym, tennis courts and squash courts. The hotel staff can bring you there in a golf buggy free of charge. There is a bike rental facility within the hotel and a small clothes shop where they try to sell you sun cream from 40 euro …. I would advise you to bring your own.

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The Oitavos Pool Area
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Sauna in the Balneotherapy

Near the hotel: 

Guincho Beach, this is one of the nicest beaches I have ever been on, stretching close to a mile in length and about 200 metres in width you will find a nice private spot even on the busiest of days. The beach is home to many surf schools and when the wind picks up in the afternoon (which it does, usually around 3pm) the kite surfers are out providing entertainment to all the beach goers.

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The gorgeous Guincho Beach

Casa do Guia, is a little courtyard that is located around a 30 min walk from the hotel. It has a few little cafes, restaurants and some little boutiques.

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Casa do Guia, Cascais

Cascais, the ‘centre’ of the city is only a short 10-minute drive in the hotel shuttle or a 6-euro taxi from The Oitavos Hotel. Cascais has loads of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars creating a great buzz around Cascais in the evening. There is a train station right in the centre of Cascais which goes into Lisbon every 20 mins. Train tickets are only 2-euro per person each way. The train takes around 40 minutes and is a great way to see the Portuguese coastline. I will be writing a post on my day in Lisbon over the next week so keep an eye out for that.

Our problem with the hotel:

Although we all really enjoyed our stay at The Oitavos Hotel we had a bit of a problem with the standard of the service during our first few days staying at the hotel. The staff were slow, always forgot at least one part of our order and weren’t very attentive. It wasn’t like they didn’t have enough staff, they were just standing around chatting. When you are paying 5 star prices you expect 5-star service and that is not what we got the first few days of our holiday. We were all getting to the end of our patience when, one morning around half way through our holiday we walked down to breakfast and there seemed to be a lot more guests. We presumed that the service would get worse, but in fact it got better. With more guests the staff had to work harder and as a result were more attentive. For the rest of our holiday the service stayed at that standard, which was great but this shouldn’t even be a problem in the first place. It really took away from the stunning hotel and relaxing atmosphere.

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The Outdoor and Pool area at The Oitavos Hotel

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in The Oitavos Hotel, it was a real pity about the service. I hope this post have been able help you. Keep an eye out for my next blog posts on ‘Where to eat in Cascais’ & ‘One day in Lisbon’.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

 

 

American Road Trip – A Snapshot

As many of you know I spent the month of June road tripping down the East coast of America. The plan had originally been to do the West coast but due to a few complications we concluded that the east coast made most sense. Anyone who knows me knows I love having a plan, so to make things interesting we decided not to plan anything and just take one day at a time. Although it was pretty stressful for a few hours of everyday it was definitely the best way to do it and I would encourage anyone setting out travelling not to have a definite plan. Anyway, keep reading to find out more about my trip, what I thought of all of the places we stopped and some tips for you if you happen to be doing a road trip or visiting any of these places.

Stop 1: Provincetown, Massachusetts (Very end of cape cod)

Accommodation: 

We stayed in this little guest house called The Masthead Resort. It was absolutely perfect for the one night we stayed there. We shared a bathroom with one other room. We were a short 15 minute walk to the main town area and the guest house had it’s own little private beach and deck area with beach chairs. I couldn’t recommend this guest house anymore. It was by far one of the best value places in Provincetown and was just what we wanted.

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How cute was our room at The Masthead Resort??
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The Masthead Resort

Food:

We got a takeaway from a restaurant called Bubalas By the Bay, which we had planned to take to Race Point Beach to watch the sunset. When we got to the beach it started raining, so no sunset – nearly as disappointing as the food.

Opinions: 

We both absolutely loved this place, it had an old fishing town vibe but was filled with new and trendy shops, cafés and restaurants. It is a great people watching area. You feel as though you are on a little greek island rather than 2 hours outside the rustle and bustle of Boston.

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Breakfast in Provincetown, Cape Cod

Stop 2: Newport

We only stopped here for a few hours to look around but I really wish we had spent a bit longer here. If you don’t know anything about Newport it is known for it’s stunning mansions. You can get tours around the inside of some of the mansions, which I have heard only great things about. In the short time we spent here we went for a walk around the headland surrounding the mansions.

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Newport Cliff Walk

Stop 3: Providence, Rhode Island 

Accommodation:

Our stay at Hotel Dolce Villa was a bit of a disaster. We arrived at around 5 in the evening to find that the hotel ‘parking’ was an alley way that could fit only 2 cars, and that was full. When I went to the reception to find out what was going on they said we could get the car valet parked on an offsite location once we had checked in. So we had to find parking (which took us around 20 mins) for us to give our keys into reception to be valeted later on – kind of defeated the idea of valet parking, but anyway. The hotel room was clean and I can’t say many bad things, apart from the fact that I was woken at 6am by what I thought was an earthquake. There seemed to be either construction or a lot of bins that needed to be emptied in the area, it went on all morning so if you are staying here you will be up bright and early.

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Hotel Dolce Villa, Providence

Food: 

One of the main reasons we stayed in Providence was due to the amazing recommendations we had been given about a restaurant called ‘Hemenway’s’. It is a fancy enough seafood restaurant. I was impressed with their selection of starters, everything sounded amazing. I was less impressed with their selection of main courses. Being on a budget we said we would only have one course as opposed to two as it wasn’t the cheapest. Looking back I really wish I had got two starters instead of the Yellowfin Tuna. It was very plain and seriously lacked flavour. It wasn’t cheap and I know if I would have paid half the price for it I still would have been disappointed. Josh, went for the lobster Mac and Cheese which a friend of his had recommended. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a blonde moment and didn’t realise is was priced per pound of lobster… budget out the window. The Mac and cheese was divine, we ended up sharing most of it. It was presented really well and I would definitely recommend it if you go. The service was really good, the staff were really attentive and super friendly. I don’t know whether I just got unlucky with my choice or josh just got lucky with his but based on the Mac and cheese I would rate the restaurant 8/10. Based on my tuna I would rate 5/10.

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3lb Lobster Mac n Cheese

The breakfast in ‘Nick’s on Broadway‘ restored my faith in Providence’s food. Our breakfast was really tasty and good value. Although it was off the beaten track it is well worth a visit. I would recommend getting the buttermilk bread with your breakfast. It was amazing. Overall: 7/10

Opinions: 

We weren’t in providence for very long, we drove around the downtown area and there were some lovely buildings and parks. Our waitress had said that boat rides on the river was a popular tourist activity. Since we didn’t see a huge amount  to Providence I don’t feel like I can give a well rounded summary or judgement of the place. Having said that there was nothing pulling us to extend our stay like some of the other locations we stopped at.

Stop 3: Assateague Island

This was one of the most magical places I have ever been to. I totally fell in love with Assateague Island and would have happily stayed there for the full 3 weeks. It is completely off the beaten track but shouldn’t be missed. I did a separate blog post on Assateague Island which you can read here, and if you decide to camp there you can find tips for camping first timers here.

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The amazing Assateague Island

Stop 4: Outer Banks

Accommodation:

We stayed in a Travelodge in the Outer Banks. I was really disappointed with this place. I know there is only so much you can expect from a budget hotel but this one wasn’t clean and was a lot more expensive than other hotels of it’s type. The one good thing was that breakfast was included, which surprisingly had a pretty good selection. The hotel was directly opposite a beach, so can’t fault it’s location but wasn’t our most pleasant stay.

Opinions: 

While the Outer Banks were nice. I personally didn’t think they were anything special and honestly would have preferred to have used our night here as an extra night in either Assateague Island, Key West or Sanibel. A good stop over but probably not worth a nights stay.

Stop 5: Charleston 

Accommodation: 

We stayed in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Suites in the Historic District. We used Hotwire for this place, (I spoke about Hotwire and my favourite cheap ways to book accommodation of one of my recent instagrams. This hotel was lovely, it had a small gym and laundry facilities – which if you end up doing a road trip you will become very familiar with. Overall our stay was lovely and were lucky enough to be upgraded when we arrived at the hotel so that is always a lovely surprise. The hotel was in a really good location and would definitely recommend it, it was on the expensive side if you aren’t getting it on Hotwire.

Food: 

If you appreciate good quality, fresh food and don’t mind paying a bit extra for it this is the place for you. SNOB (Slightly North of Broad) gave us our best meal on our trip to date. An elderly couple we met that had holidayed in Charleston for years recommended it to us along with ‘Fig and Husk‘.

You can tell it was a good menu when you are struggling to choose between more than two options. I honestly would have eaten anything on the menu. In the end I went with the New Bedford Scallops. They melted in mouth, and although I didn’t want the meal to end it was the perfect size portion, after I had devoured half of the bread basket. I usually try to avoid the bread basket but cornbread. Southern heaven – a bread I can’t resist. There is only so strong someone’s will power can be when the bread basket is fully of what looks and tastes like cake. Josh had the BBQ Tuna which was really good, however I preferred my scallops.

Overall: 

We both loved Charleston, the only issue was that due to the torrential rain we didn’t get so see as much of it as we wanted. It was such a cute little city with loads of old buildings and a daily market which is filled with souvenirs, jewellery and other bits and bobs. High street shoppers not to worry. Charleston had a great selection of high market stores scattered through it’s seasoned streets.

Stop 6: Savannah

Accommodation: 

We stayed in the Holiday inn in the Historic District, it was in the perfect location and was good value. The hotel was clean and modern and the staff were good fun. There was a small gym and an outdoor pool with some sun loungers. It was our favourite accommodation this far in on our trip.

Food & Drink: 

We went and got ice-cream in a famous old ice-cream parlour called Leopold’s we had read about it and had to check it out for ourselves. It was like something out of an old American movie. The ice-cream was divine and the line was out the door the duration of our stay. Very generous portions.

If you are lucky enough to grab a table at ‘Rocks on the Roof’ roof top bar around 6pm on a clear night, prepare for an evening of beautiful oranges and pinks as the sunsets behind the bridge. We sat there for hours having a few drinks. It looks over the river so you might be lucky enough to spot some dolphins like we did.

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Sunset drinks at Rocks on the Roof, Savannah

Activities: 

We did a walking tour one morning. Which I think are a great and inexpensive way really get a feel for the city you are in. Especially when through the eyes of a local. We found this one online by just googling ‘Savannah walking tours’. The tour was about an hour and a half long and was free apart from tips. The tour was really interesting and we enjoyed it, a lot of the tour was history based which I usually love just as Irish people it was hard to keep up as we didn’t have a good background knowledge on American history.

Overall:

This place is seriously overlooked. We loved Savannah, it was really pretty and in some areas it felt as though you had jumped back in time. There was a lot of history about it and was definitely our favourite city on the trip. Well worth the visit.

Stop 7: St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest town in the states, we stopped here for some dinner and a walk around. The place is totally geared towards tourists, it is really commercial and honestly the few hours we spent there were enough. The food options seemed okay, we were starving and ended up in The Floridian. The food was fine nothing special, would have kept looking if we weren’t so hungry.

Stop 8: Orlando

Accommodation: 

We stayed in The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Orlando Lake Buena Vista. The hotel was everything you would want from an Orlando hotel, it was clean, cheap, had a swimming pool, a shuttle bus to all of the theme park and free parking – the most under appreciated thing. Disneyland can end up being very expensive and they last thing you want to do is be spending a fortune on a hotel as well. Our hotel was about a 20 minute drive from Universal Studios and a 15 minute drive to The Magical Kingdom.

Food: 

This place is what dreams are made of … We went to a pizza place called Giordano’s. There are two in Orlando and they are known for their deep dish pizzas. I have never had a deep dish pizza so I can’t judge if it was good in comparison to other deep dish pizzas. The one thing I do know is that it was unbelievable, words don’t even begin to describe how good it was. All ill say is we took a 2 hour detour to get it again on the way home…

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Yep, this happened
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Cheesus Christ
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Because two pictures wasn’t enough

Disney World:

In Orlando we went to Universal Studios, mainly because I am a huge Harry Potter fan. For those of you who don’t know Universal Studios has a huge Harry Potter attraction which was amazing. I felt as though I was stepping straight into the movie. Having said that I have been to Disneyland in Paris and in California and both of those times I went to the Magical Kingdom (the one with the big castle). If you are planning your first trip to any of the Disneylands I would definitely recommend going to the Magical Kingdom as opposed to any of the other parks. It is the main one and is based on all of the classic Disney movies.

Overall: 

From what I saw, Orlando is nothing but a city built around Disney world. I have never been to Las Vegas but Orlando is exactly what I had expected Vegas to be like. The place is filled with tall buildings, tourist attractions and bright lights.

Stop 9: West Palm Beach 

Accommodation: 

We stayed just north of West Palm beach in yet again another Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott West Palm Beach, Jupiter. It was a nice hotel, clean. Again, you know the drill, all budget hotels are pretty similar. There was a free breakfast included at this hotel which was really handy for us when we were constantly on the road.

Food:

Out in Jupiter near our hotel we went and got a takeaway from Food Shack. A friend had recommend it saying it was his favourite restaurant and obviously everyone else’s too, there was already a line out the door at noon. So we decided to skip the line and get it to take away. We were told by a local that the menu varies on a daily basis based on what fresh produce they have in. We got the ‘Shack Bowl’ which was mixed veggies basil cilantro toasted garlic noodles coconut milk lemongrass kaffir lime broth. They had a range of fish that you could add. The food was really tasty and super fresh.

Avocado grill was in downtown West Palm Beach, close to the water front. Their large outdoor seating area and huge tapas style menu makes this place the perfect spot for an evening bite to eat after a day at the beach. Their menu was filled with interesting and inventive dishes, I just wanted to try them all. They staff were so friendly and were really helpful when it came to recommendations for both food and cocktails.

Beach: 

We went to a beach just 15 mins north of West Palm Beach. A lot of the beaches around that area are private for the hotel guests of the surrounding hotels. We luckily found a natural reserve called John MacArthur State Beach ParkJwhich is in North Palm Beach. I think we had to pay in with the car, but can’t fully remember. There is a long walk from the car park to the beach across a bridge, which stretches over some of the water that separates palm Bech from the main land. You are able to rent canoes to explore these waters. The beach is really long and the water was an amazing temperature when I was there in June. It is really cool around the time I was there there were ‘Turtle Walks’ at night time. On the Turtle Walks you go with a guide at night and they would bring you to areas where you can see the turtles crawl onto the beach and lay their legs. They were all sold out for when we were there. We spoke to a staff member and they told us that they sell out very quickly so if you are going be sure too book in advance.

Overall:

West palm beach was really nice, the main area was a good bit inland from the beach which took us a long time to realise. The main area had loads of shops and restaurants. Where as closer to the water there wasn’t as much going on.

Stop 10 : Miami 

Accommodation: 

The plus point of my dad travelling for work = hotel points redeemable against free nights away. We stayed in the Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami. It was a stunning, modern hotel just one street back from the beach with a pool that has plenty of sun beds and cabanas. It wasn’t cheap if you didn’t have Hyatt points but hotel guests did have full access to the hotel across the streets gym which is probably the best hotel gym I have been in. Guests could also get a free sun bed and towels for the day on the beach just across from the hotel. Not only was it a lovely hotel it is also in a great location. Right beside Lincoln road, the main shopping area in Miami.

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Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami

Food: 

Taquiza was special, when I read a review saying it was a casual spot for some good Mexicuan I didn’t realise it would be this casual. Tequiza is essentially a stationary food truck built into the wall, it has a window where you go up and order and collect your food. The seating is in a little covered over outdoor area, with tree branches giving you the extra shade you need. The menu comprises of individual tacos, most being 3$ each. There were also chips and salsa/guac, the chips were not like the regular chips you would buy in the store. They were blu corn chips that were still hot. They were also a lot thicker. I couldn’t recommend this place more. We loved it and I think it is the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and a beer in the evening after spending a day on the beach. My eyes were bigger than my appetite and ate waaaay too much and felt sick for the night. So, pace yourself.

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Flash sometimes makes things look unappetising – these were a lot nicer than they photograph….

We fell for the tourist trap and went to ‘Havana 1957‘. There were a few Cuban restaurants that seemed to be bopping every time we passed them, and we figured we weren’t going to Cuba so might as well get a taste for it – punny. The food was awful. I got their ‘house special’ and it was just a chicken thigh with a special gravy and rice. You have been warned, if you want Cuban food, go to Cuba.

Overall: 

It was a really nice area to visit for a few days, I wouldn’t fancy going there for a full holiday as in my opinion it is a bit hectic and not very relaxing.

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South Beach Miami

Stop 11: Key West – The highlight 

Accommodation: 

We stayed in a hostel called Seashell Motel,  we had our own room so it wasn’t as cheap as you would imagine but it was ideal. It was a short bike ride to the centre of the action (Mallory Square & Duval street area) – you could rent bikes from the hostel. It was clean and air conditioned and had laundry facilities and was exceptionally cheaper than all of the other places on the island.

Food:

I read a review saying Pepe’s was the best thing since sliced bread. We went and enjoyed it, but didn’t think it was all they had hyped it up to be. The food was good but the menu was small for lunch. The dinner menu looks as though it had a few more options. What did live up to our expectations was the key lime pie. It was truly to die for and we would have gone through 4 servings each. Easily.

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Key Lime Pie from Pepe’s

Beaches: 

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is off the beaten track but is not to be missed. You have to pay in, I cant remember how much it was but I know the price varied depending on if you went by car, bike or foot. The beach was lovely and clean with clear water and soft sand. There was a small shop and a rental facility for snorkelling gear. The beach had BBQ facilities and loads of picnic benches in the shade as well as outdoor showers and bike racks.

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Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
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Paradise

Lagerheads Beach & Bar is a chilled seafood shack known for their fish tacos. The beach they are located on is no longer than 20 metres and is quite the hidden gem. Although it doesn’t seem like much when you arrive, not very many people know about it so it is never really that busy. Feeling peckish or need to cool off? There is a little beach hut with really reasonably priced food and drinks. They also have daily drink specials and a happy hour from 5-7pm.

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Lagerhead Beach
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Stay hydrated with their whole coconuts

Activities:

When we were there we obviously rented bikes to get around the place which was also really fun, so I would totally recommend doing that because it is actually too hot to be walking everywhere. One morning we did a jet ski tour of the island which was so much fun. We saw so much and got to speed around on jet skis for an hour and a half. Money saving tip: get one between two people, it is cheaper and in my opinion more fun. Just make sure you hold on tight! We also bought snorkels and masks, we were totally ripped off in one of the ‘surf/beach shops’ on the island so go to Walmart before you make your way down the keys and pick up a pair.

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Jet Ski Tour, Key West

Overall:

Key west was by far both of our favourite stop on the whole trip. It was as chilled out or as crazy as you wanted it to be. You can drink on the streets so it was lovely to be able to walk along the street sipping a cocktail to cool you down in the blistering hot weather. The beaches were amazing. The people was amazing. The food was amazing. It was such a cool place and can not recommend it enough. If you can drive along the keys to get there, it was an amazing drive mostly over a bridge totally surrounded by the sea.

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On the road to Key West

Stop 12: Everglades

On the way back from Key West we stopped in the Everglades to do an Airboat tour and see some alligators. It is only a short journey from Miami and as far as I am aware there are buses that go from Miami. It was really cool, we were there just after a thunderstorm so didn’t see a huge amount of alligators. If you are going to make a trip to the everglades bathe in insect repellant before.

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Stop 13: Sanibel Island 

If you want to swim in water that is at bath temperature you have to take a trip to the gorgeous Sanibel. The stunning beaches and the chilled out atmosphere makes the perfect day trip. We had to pay for parking at the beach we went to which was quite expensive so do your research about which beach to be going to.

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Sanibel Island

Stop 14: Blue Ridge Mountains 

By far my favourite driving part of the trip. We entered into the mountains at Daleville and took the Blue Ridge Parkway through the mountains. We drove all the way through and into Shenandoah National Park. I will warn you there are few to no shops in the mountains so stock up on food before you set off. Another tip is to start your drive through the mountains earlier in the day rather than later. We ended up having to sleep in the back of the car because we were too tired to keep driving but weren’t near a campsite or an exit out of the mountain range. Ill let the pictures do the rest of the talking about how amazing the place was. Every kilometre or less there was a drive through look out point so you won’t have to try to hard to get the perfect picture.

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Drive through point, Blue Ridge Mountains

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Stop 15: Washington

Accommodation: 

Again luckily got to make great use of my dad’s Hyatt hotel points and cashed them in against a night in Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.  The hotel was lovely and we enjoyed our stay there.

Activities: 

There is a lot to see in Washington and it is all very interesting. In my opinion I think all of the ‘touristy’ sites can be done in one day, I wouldn’t be spending more than one night here. Tip: If you aren’t from North America do some research about what all of the buildings are before you go to look at them …. oppsie

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At least we knew what this place was..

Stop 16: New York

You can find all the details on what I recommend doing in New York in my New York in 4 days blog post.

I know this was a long one and well done if you are still reading. It was the most amazing trip and I couldn’t recommend it more. Hopefully you have found this post helpful! See you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

San Francisco in a Nutshell

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the States. It has so much character  and it is jam packed with things to do and to see.

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Pier 39’s Seals

 

Both times I have been in San Francisco I have gone on the Big Bus Tour, not only is it a really easy and scenic way to get around the city and get to the main attractions, you also learn some cool facts and history about the place. I know super touristy but the hop on hop off service is perfect for people wanting to cover a large amount of ground in a short space of time. Big Bus Tours are available in loads of cities and you can find out more on their website here. The bus brings you to the city’s key attractions, here is what you have to see at some of the stops, whether you decide to go on the bus or not;

1. Fisherman’s wharf – Pier 39 is a must, although some people might think it is a ‘tourist trap’, it is actually a really cool area. It almost reminds me of some type of theme park/carnival. The place is filled with ice-cream parlours, touristy merchandise shops, candy shops, some cute cafés and some restaurants. It might sound super over the top but it is actually really cool to see and have a walk through.  Not to forget the best part, there are usually close to 30 seals that sunbathe on the floats in the harbour next to pier 39.

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Pier 39, San Francisco
  • Boudin bakery – While you are down in Fisherman’s wharf you have to visit this place. This huge bakery is famous for their sour dough bread, you will smell this place from down the street. You have to try their bread bowls, they take one of their sourdough loaves and cut the middle out and fill it with either Chilli or Seafood Chowder (I preferred the Chilli). Watch out for the seagulls with the remains of your bowls.
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    Boudin Sour Dough Bread Bowls

2. Far side of Golden Gate Bridge – The bus will bring you to a car park just across The Golden Gate Bridge, or similarly later on in this article I mention renting bikes that you could cycle to the other side of the bridge either. In this car park just across the bridge there is a shuttle bus that brings you down to a little town called Sausalito and back. Sausalito is gorgeous and is always 3-4 degrees warmer, it feels like you are jumping into a different country. Sausalito is a lot smaller and feels more European than Northern American.

3. Union Square – I suppose Union Square is the ‘centre’ of San Francisco. This is where you will find all of the shops and big department stores. I didn’t spend much time in this area but if you are in the mood to shop there seemed to be a good selection of stores. There is a little park in the middle of the square which is really nice for having your coffee in.

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Union Square Park, San Francisco

4. Haight-Ashbury – This neighbourhood is the ‘Hippie’ area in San Francisco and it is one of the stops on the Big Bus Tour. Here you will find some cool artsy coffee shops, restaurants and vintage boutiques. Some of Netflix new series ‘Girl Boss’ is filmed here.

Other activities

1. Alcatraz – Alcatraz, the infamous and notorious former federal prison, located 1.25km from the San Francisco shore is definitely worth a visit. You can get the boat (not very pleasant on a bad day) over to Alcatraz just a few piers down from pier 39. I would recommend booking in advance if you are going to go during peak season and I would also advise you to watch the movie ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ before you go.

2. Rent Bikes – We rented bikes in Fishermans wharf and cycled along the Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge, it is a really stunning cycle with only one steep hill on the way there. If you continue along the trail you will come to the area where you get the ‘famous’ picture with the Golden Gate Bridge over your shoulder.

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This picture is actually from the Sausalito side – but same idea. Great picture opportunity!

Food

1. Tony’s Pizzeria – Oh My Lanta… I am going to come out with a huge statement and say that my meal at Tony’s Pizzeria was the best I have ever had. It is a must when in San Francisco. However, it’s an extremely popular spot, we had to wait for a table and we were there only 5 minutes after it had opened for lunch.

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If that isn’t the look of happiness I don’t know what is

2. The Original Ghirardelli Ice-Cream and Chocolate Shop – Go and get yourself an ice-cream sundae in chocolate heaven, you will have to wait to get in so bring an umbrella! You order at the door and then sit down, it is quite an efficient system and they don’t expect you to be sitting around for hours. I loved the Sea Salt Caramel Sundae.

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Ghirardelli Sundae, San Francisco

 

These activities and food places are just the tip of the ice berg, San Francisco has so much to offer and is a truly fantastic city (apart from the cold). If you are heading to the West coast it is a must and I guarantee you will love it. Hop you enjoyed this post and don’t forget to subscribe to emails below. See you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

7 ways to Pack Smarter

I have been so lucky that I have been able to travel and visit so many cool places during my study exchange in Canada, check out New York in 4 daysBoston – Top 5 things to do in Boston and Ottawa in 1 day for more information on the places I visited. I can safely say that all the little trips in the back of others people cars and on budget airlines has forced me to become an expert bag packer and to make the most of my tiny suitcase. Here are my secrets.

Tip 1: By faaaar the most important tip – Roll dont fold. You won’t believe how much more you will be able to fit in a case when your clothes are rolled.

Tip 2: Plan !!! Look up the weather and roughly plan an outfit for every day of your trip – This will help you to avoid packing things you dont need.

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Outfit planning

Tip 3: Fill any shoes you are putting in your case.

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Stuffed shoes. Check.

Tip 4: Wear the bulkiest items you are bringing.

Tip 5: Get ‘mini’ toiletries.

Tip 6: Pack the essentials in your carry on backpack. I often carry a change of clothes in my backpack incase (god forbid) my suitcase goes missing.

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Essentials. Check. (Back pack from Pennies 13 euro)

Tip 7: Carry a reusable bag for dirty laundry so don’t have to sort through them when your home

I hope these 7 simple tips will be able to help you make the most of your suitcase for your next trip away. Don’t forget to sign up for email updates on all things ‘The Girl on the Go’. See you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

New York’s Sweet Treats

This one is for all the sweet-toothed people out there like myself. New York is home to some of the best spots for people like you and me. In my few days there I tried to get to as many of them as possible for you guys and here is my list. Just incase you couldn’t tell from my Instagram account, I definitely didn’t end up sticking to my own How to Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling tips. As they say when in New York…(In no particular order).

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New York – Angelo’s Pizza Broadway – Cheese Cake

1) Magnolia Bakery

By faaaaaaaar the best thing I had in New York came from Magnolia. Despite having a few locations around New York the place was jammed with people trying to get the good stuff – Banana Pudding. Little back story on me. Bananas are the top of a very short list of the foods I don’t like/won’t eat. Despite all of their amazing health benefits I wouldn’t eat one if someone paid me $1,000. But I bit the bullet and tried the Banana pudding from magnolia last time i was there because I love banana bread so imagined they would be similar. I fell in love. I still hate bananas but id say I dream about this pudding once a week. Their peanut butter bars were also amazing. They tasted like Reeces cups on a biscuit. Honestly, to die for.

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Banana Pudding from Magnolia

On a side note this place is takeaway only, but if you are lucky and are in there when it isn’t too busy there is a small ledge where you can stand and eat your cakes.

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Magnolia Bakery – 6th Avenue, New York

Overall 10/10

2) Serendipity

Channelled my inner Kim K and went on a hot date to Serendipity. I havent seen the movie ‘Serendipity’ so I am sorry for the terrible reference. Anyway, we had heard about the ‘infamous’ frozen hot chocolate so we had to try it. I tried to go last time I was in New York and arrived at 2/3pm and there was a 45 minute line out the door. This time we made sure we got there 5 minutes before it opened so we would be in the first seating session. This was on a Friday morning and there was already a line formed when we arrived, I would imagine on the weekends it could be worse.

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Frozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity III

They do lunch there too, the people beside us got some of it and while it looked good, it was nothing special. Instead, we decided we would go somewhere we really wanted to go rather than just settling for an average lunch here. So onto the Frozen Hot chocolate, DEFINITELY share one! No matter how hungry you are, these things are bloody filling so don’t over do it. I enjoyed it, I would say it is a cool place to go if you haven’t been but I wouldn’t be rushing back only because I didn’t think it was special enough to line up for. See more pictures over on my Instagram.

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Serendipity III – New York

Overall 8/10

3) Dylan’s Candy Bar

This one is definitely not for the people who don’t like sugary things. You can smell this place from down the block, it is jam packed with so many sweets, chocolate and fudge the sweet smells could knock someone out. There are a few locations around New York.

Everything is seriously overpriced but it is worth the visit, there is a wall that shows you what lots of celebrity’s favourite candy is, so that is cool to check out!

Overall 8/10

4) Dó
I went to DÓ to see what all the Instagram hype was all about (fooled no one with that last sentence, the place looked delicious). We queued in a line across the street for 25 mins before we were allowed to go in and order (thought we would be queuing for much longer!). We were given a menu which listed at least 16 different flavours that we could choose from.

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DÓ Cookie Dough New York. French Vanilla Pink Cone with Cake Batter and PB Snickerdoodle

It seems that when we ordered 2 scoops we forgot that you can only really have a few mouth fulls of cookie dough before you feel sick. Two scoops was way too much and you never really hear that coming from me. If you are going SHARE a 1 scoop!!

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Overall 7/10

5) Cakes by Melissa

Cute little bakery found in numerous locations around New York. There was one right beside my hotel last time I was there, which I was in waaaay too many times. They do mini cupcakes and mini macarons. When you walk in you will think that they are too small (trust me I did), but with a cup of coffee one of each is the perfect little treat to satisfy a sweet craving. Not the cheapest but when you are only getting a few it is not too bad.

Overall 9/10

6) Doughnuttery

This little place can be found in the food market below the Plaza Hotel – which I will mention is bloody unbelievable!! It is like a little village down there! So down there, there was a little doughnut stall, which as far as I am told can also be found in the Chelsea Food Market called Doughnuttery. This little stall served mini doughnuts at a minimum of 6. All of the doughnuts were prepared plain and you we chose what flavour/topping/sugar that would be on your doughnuts. There were some crazy flavours on that menu. We got the glazed and the Coco Loco. They were DEVINE. Even better was they were still a bit warm.

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Doughnuttery Menu – The Plaza Hotel, New York

Overall 9/10 

I really wanted to go to The Chelsea Food Market and Blacktap for their famous Milkshakes, so I will be back! I hope this list has been informative and that you enjoy it. If you did like or find it helpful give it a like and subscribe below.

The Girl on the Go xx

How to Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling

I noticed this summer while backpacking around Europe that convenience stores (which are in every train station and airport) aren’t very ‘convenient’ for people who are trying to eat healthy. They are mainly filled with overly processed food, drink,  and very few fresh products.

I have come up with a few tips that might help you guys maintain a balanced diet on your next trip, or if you are just looking to start your journey you may also be interested in 6 Healthy Habits to aid Weight Loss.

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – As cringy as this sounds, this is by far the most important thing no matter if you are traveling or just going to college or work. If you want to achieve your health goals you need to be prepared. Always carry a lunch box around or just some snacks that are healthy so you won’t be forced to try to find something in a ‘convenience’ store. Get your trip off to a good start by bringing some healthy snacks to munch on while waiting for your flight. Airports always have the worst selection of healthy food.

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Bring some healthy snacks. If you haven’t already tried Fulfil bars the white chocolate is the best!

2. Stay Hydrated – I know when I am traveling I always forget to drink water. Drinking enough water is a huge part of trying to stay healthy and it is usually forgotten when it isn’t readily available. Most places have water fountains, so if you want to save a bit of money and help the environment carry a reusable bottle around with you.

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I always try to bring my cute Victoria Secret glass water bottle with me when I leave the house

3. Try to avoid fast food joints – I know grabbing a burger or some fries can seem like the easiest and cheapest option sometimes, especially for students who are on a budget, but what I learnt from my trip this summer was that supermarkets become your best friend. I used to go and buy fruit and veg in big packets which I would carry around with me. Some super markets even have small salad and sandwich bars. This option is especially nice in a hot country. You can go and buy your food and go and sit on a beach or in a park and eat your food.

4. 5-a-day – Although this is far from essential, you should make sure you are getting 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in every day.  This will help you make smarter choices when choosing what to eat both out in restaurants or in the supermarket.

5. Walk – Ditch the Ubers, trains and buses. If possible try to walk to the places you want to go. Most of the time going away on holidays means that you will be missing out on your gym sessions. So make sure that you are trying to at least hit 10,000 steps every day.

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Walking around NYC

6. Don’t skip meals – If you have no choice but to eat in the fast food restaurant, do it! While a lot of people might avoid McDonald’s at all costs as they don’t want to be ‘bloated’ in their bikini the following day. The reality is you are on your holidays, and I know that when I get hungry I am really really grumpy! There is no point risking ruining your holiday to try and maintain the same level of leanness you arrived with.

I hope these tips have been of some use to you coming up to summer. Enjoy your holiday and hopefully see you back here soon!

The Girl on Go xx