Paris is a very likeable city with loads to do, see and eat. However, its size can be overwhelming and I understandyou might not know where to begin. This is why I have compiled some of the things we think are worth doing/seeing.
Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
Although the flights were a bit more expensive, we were only a 35-minute train ride outside of the city centre. People who are on a short weekend trip might find that it is worth the extra bit of money, as it will give them more time for exploring.
Where we stayed:
St. James Albany Hotel and Spa is located under the arches of Rivoli street, just minutes from the Louvre and directly opposite the‘Jardin des Tuileries’. The hotel is fully equipped with a pool, spa, and what it claims to be a ‘fitness centre’. It has a restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. The hotel has an outdoor patio in the centre of the hotel which I would imagine is gorgeous in the summer months.
I underestimated the size of Paris, although our hotel was ‘central’ it was still at LEAST a 20-minute walk to a lot of the areas we wanted to see and the restaurants we had been recommended. For this reason, I don’t think where you decide to stay will have a huge bearing on the enjoyment of your trip. I would advise you to make a list of the places you want to go to and then pick your accommodation accordingly.
Where we ate:
From what we saw, you could spend a month in Paris eating out for all three meals a day and that would only be the tip of the iceberg in what the city has to offer from a food point of view. I just wish my stomach could have handled more. Each restaurant we passed looked better than the last. Here are just some of the places that we ate in and feel are worth sharing:
– Claus Palais-Royal: You would walk by this little place if you didn’t know about it, or didn’t wonder why there is a line of people down the road. Claus is a cute and intimate breakfast location with some lovely food. I will say, on the weekend they only offer a few variations of a set menu, which includes a few ‘courses’. If you want to save money or just don’t have a very big appetite I would recommend either sharing one of the set meals or going one day during the week.
– Holybelly: Okay so I am trying not to be dramatic here, buuuuuut this was hands down the best breakfast I have ever had. Apparently, there is normally a line, and rightly so. I would wait in line for what I had! However, we went on a weekday around noon and we could walk straight in. The menu is simple, with just the perfect amount of choice and the décor is one of a kind. I really could not recommend this place any more. I had the ‘Savoury Stack’ – TRUST ME PEOPLE!!
– Verlet: This one is for the coffee lovers. I wouldn’t call this a ‘breakfast place’ as it doesn’t necessarily serve breakfast. It does have loads of delicious pastries and some sandwiches that you can order from around noon. This quaint café offers its customers a selection of multiple different types of coffee from all over the world. There are no tourists here, so the majority of the menu and information about the coffees is in French. However, the staff were really nice and could recommend a coffee bean that best suits the type of coffee you drink (Espresso, Flat white etc.)
– Le Jules Verne: This is a once in a lifetime experience. Le Jules Verne is a Michelin Starred Restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. It was the most incredible meal setting I have ever experienced and the food and wine were just stunning. After your meal, you can go out onto the 2nd floor balcony of the Tower and look over the whole city. It was an amazing experience but it comes at a hefty price. For this reason, I would only recommend going here if you are a die-hard foodie with disposable income or for a special occasion (I got it as a birthday present).
– Pizza Popolare: This restaurant was very appropriately named. It doesn’t take reservations and there is no way you will arrive and walk straight in. You will have to wait, and you will think it was worth the wait. I promise. This place has a brilliant atmosphere and even better prices for the top-quality food it serves. It was one of the nicest pizzas I have ever had and even better, it only cost 14 euro. We had to wait for an hour to get a table, so if you don’t want to wait long I would recommend you arriving 20-30 mins before the restaurant opens to ensure you are in the first sitting. Having said that we went on a Saturday night, so it might be less busy midweek. This is not to be missed. P.S. There is a free photo booth in the toilet.
What we did:
Citroen tour: This was one of the highlights of the trip, not for the reason you might think (see my Instagram 2018 Highlights to see what I am talking about), but would by all means recommend. It is a brilliant way to see the city, especially if it is too hot/cold to walk around or if you aren’t there for very long. As I mentioned before Paris is such a big city and a lot of the things people want to see are quite spread out so this tour gives you a great snapshot of the city through a local’s eyes. I would recommend doing this early on in your stay so you know what areas you want to revisit in your own time. We did the 1 hour tour and it only cost 70 euro, which we thought was a good deal for what we got. Avoid rush hour traffic times for your tour to ensure you get to see as much as possible in the hour slot.
Arc de Triomphe: The Arc de Triomphe is a great way to see the city in day light or night time. Its height allows you to see a lot of the main landmarks of the city in one go. Although a lot of people might think to go up the Eiffel Tower to see Paris, when you are up the tower, you obviously can’t see the tower itself. That’s why we loved the Arc de Triomphe. Tip 1: I know this might seem obvious but there is a tunnel to allow pedestrians into the centre of the crazy roundabout. Use this, you will also get your ticket in this tunnel to allow you to get to the top. Tip 2: Bring your ID, if you are under 25 you can go to the top for free. Prepare for a loooot of stairs. Tip 3: if you go at night time, make sure you are there on an hour, as the Eiffel Tower sparkles for a few minutes every hour.
Eiffel Tower: Going up the Eiffel tower might seem like a good idea, however as I mentioned above you can see similar things from the Arc de Triomphe, including the tower. Having said that the views were spectacular, especially of the gardens in front of the tower. We were granted admission with our lunch in Le Jules Verne, and therefore didn’t have to pay or line up for it. If there is a massive line or it is expensive, it wouldn’t be top of the list for me.
Latin quarter/St. Germain: From what I gather these seem to be similar areas, I easily could have got that wrong. These areas are full of small restaurants and bars, and is definitely worth strolling over to in the evening to grab a glass of wine and people watch. You can find close to every world cuisine on the windy streets of Latin quarter.
Montmartre: Montmartre is home to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The area is known for its artistic history and gives its visitors a great view of the city. It was a nice activity to do, however it was a bit of a walk from the 1st arrondissement where we were staying. If you are pushed for time and still want to see it, I believe there is a shuttle bus that goes up to the Basilica. There is also an option to do a 2 hour Citroen tour that includes going up there. Having said that, from my experience I don’t know if it would be worth the extra money doing a second hour to go up there.
Overall, we both adored Paris and by no means even saw or experienced the half of it. It is the perfect weekend break and I couldn’t recommend it enough. If anyone has anything to add please feel free to include it in the comment section below.
If you are staying outside of Lisbon it is well worth making a trip in to Portugal’s capital at some point during your stay. We were staying in Cascais a 35-minute train journey outside of Lisbon. Their train systems are easy to use and super cheap (only 2€ each way), so you have no excuses. The train ride provides you with stunning views of the coast as you make your way into Lisbon.
You can read as many tourist books as you like but I don’t think you can beat the advice of a local. That’s why when we arrived into ‘Cais do Sodré’ station we hoped straight into one of the many ‘Tuk Tuks’ you will find on the streets of Lisbon, locals estimate that there are close to 400. No matter what your budget is they are a must. The beauty of them is that there isn’t a set tour, you can pick where you go or they can decide based on your interests. You can give them a price limit and they will bring you to as many places they can within your budget. Our Tuk Tuk tour cost us 60 euro per hour which worked out at 10 euro each per hour in our 6 man Tuk Tuk. I am unsure about the price ranges with different companies, but it was a great way to see so much of the city in such a short amount of time especially because you won’t be getting far in the blistering heat of July and August on foot. Our driver Mario was so kind and he gave us a great feel for the city. You could tell he really cared about his passengers and getting us the best value for our money. Mario wasn’t the only Tuk Tuk driver we were in contact with that we were impressed by their generosity. They all seemed so genuine and we weren’t worried or sceptical about being ripped off as you do with so many other tourist attractions all over the world.
Choosing the right Tuk Tuk:
If you are going to get a Tuk Tuk get an electric one. Not only are they better for the environment, but they make it a lot easier to hear what your guide is saying while you are driving. Another reason why I would recommend the electric Tuk Tuks over the gas ones was because of the awful fumes that the gas ones were giving off. I’m sure a tour would be quite sickening in one, especially because the Tuk Tuks don’t have doors to keep the smell out.
On a budget where should I ask them to take me:
Lisbon is a stunning city, being built on a hill means there are loads of look out points all over the city. Although they are all spectacular the most amazing one we say is called ‘Miradouro da Senhora do Monte’, so if you are on a budget ask them to take you there.
Feeling a bit peckish?
Taberna da Rua das Flores which was recently featured in the Sunday Times, is a hidden gem that is getting a bit more attention from tourists than it’s local regulars may like. Hidden away off ‘Praça Luís de Camões’ this quaint, authentic Portuguese restaurant would be missed by people not looking for it. The menu changes daily and is written on a big blackboard which is carried around the restaurant and translated to English for the non-natives. The menu consisted of 2 starters and 4 main courses. Although choice is limited the options on the day I was there all sounded amazing. The ‘rough and ready’ style makes you feel like you are sitting in a Portuguese kitchen waiting to be served. We all really enjoyed our meal here and I think it is worth ditching the touristy restaurants for one day and paying a visit to this for some real Portuguese food.
Main courses ranging from 8-10 euro – at lunch time.
Everyone wants to eat different things?
No problem, the ‘Time Out Food Market’ is the place for you. There are stalls with nearly every cuisine so you are sure to find something everyone will love without having to eat in different places. Your only problem now will be finding a table in their expansive seating area. Highly recommend.
Then you have to stop in Amorino. This ice-cream parlour can be found in most major cities and has a huge range of ice creams and sorbets. However, the thing that I love Amorino for is their macarons that have a thin layer of ice-cream in the middle. To die for.
We all absolutely loved Lisbon and hope to be back at some stage in the near future. It was a stunning city with both historic and modern aspects to it. The perfect weekend break at only 20 euro for a taxi from the airport to the city centre.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop 3: Providence, Rhode Island
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.
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.
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
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.
Stop 4: Outer Banks
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop 11: Key West – The highlight
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stop 15: Washington
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.
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
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.
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 days, Boston – 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.
Tip 3: Fill any shoes you are putting in your case.
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.
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.
As you may have seen from my Instagram last weekend I was in New York – the city that never sleeps. True, but you don’t have to miss your 8 hours in order to see the whole city in a long weekend because I am going to show you how to see everything and still give you time to relax and enjoy yourself.
The key is to have a plan, not a minute by minute plan but some kind of rough outline of things that you might want to see. If you don’t know what the best way to plan a weekend away is, no need to fret. I will be posting a separate blog post on what the best way to prepare for a trip away is. In the mean time if you don’t have a plan or simply don’t know what you should try to see in New York read on because I will give you a break down on what I did.
Grand Central Station – You won’t be there long but it is a must see, the marble floor’s and high ceilings are magnificent. Good picture opportunity on the balcony.
Times Square – just a short walk from GCS, this isn’t to be rushed. The day I was there the weather was beautiful so I just sat in the centre people watching.
Magnolia Bakery – Only a few blocks away from TS, the Banana Pudding is a must try. I will add I don’t like bananas, honestly, I hate them. But a friend told me about the banana pudding and said I wouldn’t regret it. Ooooooooh my it was amazing. So good I went back later on that day for more.
High Line – Although it is a bit far away from TS & MB, after my Banana Pudding I headed to The High Line. The High Line is an old train track that has been turned into a pedestrianised walkway that runs along the west side of the Manhattan, it makes you forget you are in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
Times Square at night – I thought it was impressive during the day. I was wrong. You have to see TS both during the day and the night.
Dinner – So, I will admit. Despite every warning I was given not to eat around the TS area I did it. And regret it. My Dad told me there is no point in me getting a 45 min cab across NYC to go and find places I found on my Instagram explore page. So we went somewhere near TS that had 4.6/5 stars on Google. It was Japanese and we queued for an hour (presumed this was a good sign). It was called ‘Sake Bar Hagi’ and it was a waste of a meal in New York. (Should have known when I saw the picture menu)
5th Avenue – There is so much to see in such a small area around 5th avenue. The Rockefeller Centre, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trump Tower. Ending in Central Park. The Bottom of the Rockefeller Centre (where the ice rink is in winter) is an amazing location to go and have a drink on a sunny afternoon.
Central Park – There are a few bike rental shops around the park but we just walked. There are is the ‘main’ lake with the row boats and the restaurant and there is a smaller one just near it. We sat at both for a while, they were both gorgeous. Beside the small lake there was a little coffee shop with surprisingly reasonable and tasty sandwiches, cakes and giant cookies.
Dylan’s Candy Bar – For people like me with a serious sweet tooth you will be in heaven. For people who don’t love sweets, you may want to cover your mouth and nose. It isn’s necessarily any better than any other sweet shop, just it is one of those things people do when in New York so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and see what all the hype is about. No real hype, just sugar.
Urban Space – We found this little food market just beside our hotel, it was really trendy with close to 20 food vendors (something for everyone in the audience) and a communal seating area. Lunch or Dinner is sorted, now your only problem will be trying to choose and getting a seat. Honestly can’t recommend this place enough, I went back to this place a few times on my stay and absolutely loved it every single time.
Refinery Hotel – Close to the Empire State Building there is a Hotel with a roof-top bar. It isn’t very high so you won’t be getting amazing views of the city, but it is a very trendy and cool place to go and have a drink or some food. When I was there 75% of it was covered over due to winter so don’t count it out if it is a bad night. I only had a drink there but be aware you will have to fight for a place at the bar on a Saturday night.
Hundred Acres – We went for dinner in Soho, unfortunately, it was raining but I would have loved to have a walk around down there. We went for dinner in a restaurant called Hundred Acres. All of the dishes seemed normal but when they were brought out they had a Lebanese twist. Which was surprising but tasty.
9/11 Memorial – In the morning we got a taxi to the memorial, pictures don’t do it any justice it was vastly overwhelming. The museum is a MUST. If you bring a US student card you get a discount to get in. This museum can’t be rushed. Leave around 2 hours to get through it all. It is pretty full on but hugely insightful.
One World Observatory @ One World Trade Centre – Right next door there is an observatory on the 100th floor of the One World Trade Centre. You have to pay to get in but, the views were spectacular you can see the whole city especially on a good day.
Pizza by the slice – Go and get yourself a slice of Joe’s Pizza. At only $2.95 per slice you won’t be breaking the bank but won’t be compromising on taste. The thin and crispy base is what dreams are made of. It can be found at numerous locations around the city.
Broadway – You have to go to a show if you are in New York. You can get discounted tickets at the big red booth in Times Square ‘TKTS’. I know during the summer you have to queue for them but when I was there it was a lot quieter so we were able to walk straight up an hour before the show and buy them (At busier times I would recommend going to get your tickets early when the booth opens to avoid dissappointment). There were tickets available between $35 USD and $90 USD. We went to ‘School of Rock’ it was amazing, I would highly recommend it. Warning: drinks are really expensive in the theater.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner – We went here for a drink before the show, it is great fun watching the waiters and waitresses hop up onto the tables in song. Having said that, I have heard the food is terrible. So if possible try and go and sit at the bar for a drink (it is small so not ideal for a party bigger than 2/3).
Angelo’s Pizza Broadway – If you are looking for some quick yet delicious dinner before your show instead of just a drink, check out my post on New York – Angelo’s Pizza Broadway.
Brooklyn Bridge – Get yourself down towards the Brooklyn Bridge, it is a gorgeous walk across to Brooklyn on a sunny day but I imagine it wouldn’t be as pleasant in the wind and rain. It is a great photo opportunity and Brooklyn gives you a stunning view of the Manhattan sky line. When you get off the bridge walk back towards the water. There are lovely benches where you can sit in the sun and enjoy your Shake Shack Milkshake.
East River Ferry – To save yourself the walk back across the bridge get a $4 water taxi ride on the ‘East River Ferry’ back across to the bottom of Wall Street.
Wall Street – Walk your way up Wall Street past all of the tall buildings and artisan coffee shops. You will come to the stunning New York Stock Exchange.
Soho – Walking through Soho is different to other parts of the city, it is a less built up and trendy area filled with unique little shops. Can lead onto Union Square.
Union Square – Always something going on here, it was one of the busiest places I was in in New York. Chess fan? There seemed to be some kind of tournament going on, if that’s what you are into. There appeared to be a ‘Whole Foods’ around this area as we saw loads of people with takeaway boxes eating in the sun.
I really hope that this has been able to give you guys a good idea about how to get everything done in one weekend in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Enjoy it, it is one of the best cities I have ever been to! If you are unsure about where to stay check out my recent article New York Accommodation – Pod 51, and if you want to know about some more places to get some sweet treats have a look at New York’s Sweet Treats.
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