Win The Trip to Italy on DVD

Sunday, 23 November 2014

I have a copy of The Trip to Italy on DVD to give away. Fill out the form below to enter and check out my adventures in Italy here.

                                    


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One entry per person. Entries close 5pm New Zealand time on Tuesday 9th December. Winner will be contacted via email.

Top 5 Destinations I want to go back to and why

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Three months into a new desk job I am amping to travel again. Here are the Top 5 destinations I wish I could go back to right now.

The Cook Islands

When I visited The Cook Islands in 2011, I spent the entire time on the main island – Rarotonga.

I’ve heard Aitutaki is amazing, the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort being formed out of bungalows, some of which are over the water. It’s a plane ride away from the main island.



As there is a stand down period between flying and Scuba Diving, we had to prioritise and simply ran out of time to get there.

Las Vegas

I didn’t expect to love Vegas the way I did – the lights, The Strip, the sheer size of everything. The downside was a travel companion I was in no way getting along with.

Image from worldofwanderlust.com
If I could go back right now I’d see Britney Spears perform at Planet Hollywood, drink many Mojitos by the pool, visit the Casinos that I never got to and live it up in the crazy way the Kardashians used to before they started popping out kids.

Paris

My sole visit to Paris was on a Contiki tour and man do those things move quickly! While I ticked all the boxes (walked the Champs Elise, saw the Mona Lisa, Moulin Rouge and a cabaret show, took a river boat along the Seine and got most of the way up the Eiffel Tower at night) I didn’t get a chance to just wander the streets and soak it all in.



Renee, my former flatmate has been to Paris three times this year (granted, she does live in London which gives her quite the advantage). I’d love to put a lock on the bridge, and  get the whole way up the Eiffel Tower in the day time.

London

London is one of my favourite places in the world, I just couldn’t seem to make it work living there. My friend Hana is in the process of opening a cafĂ© backing on to Wandsworth Common –I need to go there for a Flat White and some baking.



I would also go to Duck and Waffle for breakfast while the sun rises.

Kuala Lumpa

I was far too ambitious, booking a day’s stopover in Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia between two long haul flights (flying Rome to Auckland). The plane was late, customs took forever, I was jet-lagged it was stupid humid and I felt slightly uncomfortable as it was my first time as a solo female traveller. While I'd intended to do a bus tour at a minimum, in the end I saw little more than a hotel pool and restaurant.


Martinborough

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Just an hour’s drive from Wellington is Martinborough, a botique wine region which produces around 1% of New Zealand’s wine. After stopping in at the Information Centre near The Square for advice, Mike and I headed to Bloom at Murdoch James for lunch.

A coachload of people were just heading inside for lunch, but we were told they had pre-ordered and our host suggested we do some wine tasting at the Cellar Door first. The 2013 Late Harvest Pinot Gris was my favourite, and what I ended up ordering with my lunch.

Image from purewairarapa.co.nz
The Cheese platter looked so amazing that I forgot to take a photo of it. The Fish of the Day I followed it with was quite nice too.


Our next stop was Poppies, but they were too full to take us for desert. We only stayed for wine tasting and had a look around - it seemed like a nice place for a function.


Alana Estate is usually a stop I'd make as it has it all - nice wine, a restaurant with a sunny outside area and a large grassy area for concerts. But it was closed and it's name had been removed from the fence. Google a bit later confirmed it had been sold to clear debts and will reopen under a new name (Luna Estate) in time for the 2015 Winery Tour.

We went to Tiro Hana Estate for Desert and a look in their new Emporium. Mike and I shared a Bread and Butter pudding and he had a glass of Rose. At this point, as the driver I’d moved on to water.

Image from somewhereyonder.blogspot.co.nz

We then headed home via a quick stop at C'est Cheese in Featherson - a small shop with an amazing selection of cheeses.



If reading about New Zealand wine regions is of interest you may appreciate my previous posts on Marlborough, Waiheke Island, New Zealand Food and Wine Festivals.

More Food Porn - Top Wellington Restaurants

Friday, 31 October 2014

Wellington also deserves representation in a Food Porn post. If you're heading to there any time soon, below are some of the best places to eat and my experiences.

Current trends have seen upmarket restaurants forced to reduce their opening hours (Logan Brown) or forced to close (The White House and Martin Bosley's) as consumers vote with their feet in favour of casual dining. The result is some great, affordable places run by the same restaurateurs. A win for consumers in my mind.

Crab Shack

Arriving even at 6 or 6.30pm on a Saturday night you should expect an acceptable 30 minute wait for a table. We were directed right down the venue, through Shed 5 to the bar to wait, ordering cocktails while we waited, disappointed to find the Crab Shack drink specials were not available in the Shed 5 bar.

We were seated near the kitchen so could watch the meals being prepared. We ordered 1L of White Sangria, Salmon and Calamari Rings as starters followed by the Cajun Catch of The Day (Groper, served with Potato Hash and Coleslaw) and Steak (also served with Potato Hash and Coleslaw). Felt a little bad not ordering Crabs being the specialty but the food was amazing and it was very well priced totalling around $84 between two of us.

         

Dragonfly

It's only been open open a couple of years but Dragonfly is already listed in the top 20 restaurants in Wellington according to Cuisine Magazine. Asian Fusion is a popular style and the moody, ambient restaurant is my new favourite.

Expect the main restaurant to be fully booked on a Saturday evening, however the space extends right through to a courtyard and bar area at the back of the premises where the same menu is served and a booking is not required.


                     
I love the Cocktail and Desert Samplers giving you a range of flavours when it is just too hard to choose. The Squid, Cheese Parcels and Salmon 2 ways were also brilliant with edgy flavours.

Pravda


Pravda is a favourite of mine for a coffee with colleagues or a late afternoon glass of wine (they have a loyalty stamp card!). It's proximity to all parts of the Wellington CBD also makes it convenient for lunch meetings.

My risotto was nice but didn't look photographically impressive. The chocolate mud cake however both looked and tasted AMAZING. I'm glad Mike and I shared however, it was too rich to consume alone.



Also worth a quick mention are:
  • Capitol (Don't be put off by Pasta for Breakfast!). The menu is certainly unique - I had a cheesy gnocci with mesculin salad and my dining buddy French Toast which was served with fish and capers rather than the traditional syrup and fruit or bacon.
  • Loretta for their Egg Sandwich. and Crumpets with Lemon Curd
  • Ombra for Venetian Tapas which reminded me of Italy - though the prawns themselves were a little too authentic for me - still complete with heads and shells etc.
  • Charley Noble When I last visited in June, the freshly shucked oysters were a highlight as was my Whitebait Fitter Sandwich. It is slightly noisy during busy periods which can make it challenging to converse with a large group of people.
  • Mojo Poneke - the latest Mojo at the new Clyde Quay Wharf development with food by Martin Bosley. Good, with slightly overpriced food but unbeatable coffee.

Whistler

Monday, 22 September 2014

The drive from Seattle to Whistler was pretty uneventful aside from consuming the best burger of the entire trip at a random roadside diner and striking a seemingly over-inquisitive customers officer.

The Hilton Whistler was expansive, luxurious (as you'd expect from this brand) and right in Whistler Village. It was a rip-off to park the car though - required and $30 to park yourself or $34 for valet.

Image from TripAdvisor
We had dinner at La Brasserie in Whistler Village and a wander around the lit village at night.

The next day we were up early to make the most of our day in Whistler, eating massive plates of pancakes at Blacks at the base of the mountain.



We purchased hiking passes and took the gondola up Whistler (about three times the height of your standard New Zealand mountain).



After following a short track around the alpine lakes we got another gondola across to Blackcomber before taking the chairlift down. The views were stunning and there were crazy people hiking up the mountain below us.

I then went slightly nuts in a Lululemon store before we drove back to Vancouver Airport to fly home.

Laura and Caitlin told us Whistler needs to be visited in both Summer and Winter. I can sadly tick only one box: the pictures I've seen of a snow covered Whistler look like something from a Northern Hemisphere Christmas Card.

Decorating my fridge with PicStick

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

While I am responsible for an entire drawer full of out-of-focus photos from that brief pre-digital camera period of my early 20’s when disposable cameras ruled, aside from two printed, framed photos of my trip to Greece last year given to me by a friend, my flat is void of photos.

I’ve taken a lot of travel photos over the past few years but have sadly had a grand total of none of them printed. The digital age means I instead I leave them to become buried in online albums and cloud-based storage.

My fridge is also undecorated save for the 'Keep Calm and Buy Shoes' magnet my Uncle and his partner gave me last Christmas.

Enter PicStick, allowing you to to create beautiful photo magnets, delivered worldwide with no postage costs. I chose 9 of my favourite photos, uploading them directly from a mix of storage locations – my Facebook account, Dropbox and my computer.



My magnets tripped across the world and hit my mailbox 7 days later and I now have special moments from Mahia to Milan on my fridge to enjoy. The picture quality is similar to if you were to photocopy or print off a photo from your computer,


Get 25% the purchase price of £9.50/$14.99 for a sheet of 9 when you order by using the discount code WORLD25.

If you have one of those fancy fridges magnets don’t stick to you can decorate your washing machine, dishwasher or clothes dryer instead!

#spon: This article was written in partnership with PicStick. Big thanks to PicStick for gifting me 9 magnets for my fridge. Financial compensation was not received for this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Decorating my fridge with PicStick is a post from Sarah Sees The World.

4 of TripAdvisors Top 25 Hotels 2014... and where I stayed instead

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

TripAdvisor has released its Top 25 Hotels in the World as rated by it's user reviews this year. I have not had the pleasure of staying at any of them.

14. The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, California



A Mediterranean vibed golf and spa resort. Rooms are available from around $474nz per night but as they're currently offering your third consecutive night free, now is a good time to go!

Where I stayed: HI Hostel, Port Loma




All the staff at the HI Hostel at Point Loma were extremely friendly and made an effort to get to know you. Pancakes were available for breakfast and home made meals such as BBQ Burgers or Pasta and a desert were available for only $5 all 3 of the nights I stayed. HI Hostels are alcohol free but there were cheap drinks nearby.

15. The Milestone Hotel, London, United Kingdom.


The Milestone Hotel boasts a Kensington address and two staff to every guest. It looks beautifully decorated but from around $891 per night it's several times the maximum price I'd pay for a hotel, ever.

Where I stayed: Various



I've posted before about the various shitholes I've stayed in in London but the nicest place I've ever stayed there was The Montcalm at The Brewery. It felt luxurious and I still use an umbrella I borrowed from the room.

16. Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, British Columbia



Mike and I happened across this hotel while we were out exploring Vancouver so it is truly right in the heart of the city. A beautifully restored 20's hotel which does not appear to have lost its charm with rooms priced from around $561nz per night,

Where I stayed: Riviera Hotel on Robson Street and The Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

I booked Riviera Hotel on Expedia, which is amongst a bunch of dated highrise hotels before the Korean end of Robson Street. Our first floor room was not cheap averaging $330 per night and it looked out over a carpark.




When our three nights were up we moved to The Sheraton at Vancouver Wall Centre (above) for the next three - an upgrade of two stars for very little extra money.

17. Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence, Italy



There are multiple Four Season's hotels on this list proving the brands worth. The Florence hotel looks like a palace with ornate ceilings and beautiful gardens. From around $1365nz per night I would struggle to leave the place to see the sights!

Where I stayed: Hotel Franchi




Hotel Franchi was far from the newest or even most memorable hotel we stayed in on the Contiki tour I took in 2010. It was poky and old but then that's europe and so were most of the budget hotels we stayed in on the trip.

A couple of slats popped out of the bed when I sat down on it so I was pretty nervous about moving too much when I was sleeping as not to fall through it. The walls were also very thin and one of the couples on our bus clearly were unaware of this until breakfast the following morning...

Pictures from TripAdvisor. I'm can say I'm doing a little better on the Top 25 Hotels in New Zealand list having stayed at number 12 (Novotel Auckland Airport) and number 15 (The Skycity Grand Hotel). 

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