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). 


Monday, 8 September 2014

The three hour Victoria Clipper trip to Seattle was pretty painful after our quick helicopter trip to Victoria.
Mike and I got a taxi from the Seattle ferry terminal to the Executive Hotel on Spring Street which was run down but in a pretty unbeatable central city location. Just down the road Vegegrill was a fun lunch find with fresh salads and soy based meat imitations.

We took a 90 minute tour with Seattle Ducks. Sights included the Space Needle, the apartment building featured in the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie, a cruise on Union Lake, the floating house from sleepless in Seattle, the Seattle Grace hospital exterior from Grey's Anatomy.  Funny hats and relevant music were made part of the ride and storyline by our captain Ed Venture.

Gas Works
Seattle from Union Lake

After the tour we got the Monorail to the Space Needle. The views at the top were impressive and it made me realise what the Auckland Sky Tower really lacks is an outdoor observation deck.

We had a quick walk around Pike Place Market at closing time before walking to Pier 57 to consume oysters, play on Arcade Games and eat massive seafood meals at The Fisherman's Restaurant under the Seattle Great Wheel.

Image from another100years.com
The wheel is a new attraction in Seattle. It was $15 and we went around four times. Not as impressive as the London Eye, as high as the Space Needle or as informative as the Brighton Wheel but a fun activity.

After a morning shopping at Macy's, Ross, H&M and Nike Town we picked up a rental car from National and headed back towards Canada.

Victoria, BC

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mike and I exited Vancouver rather glamorously via a HeliJet from Canada Place to Victoria. This was way cooler, more convenient and cheaper (last minute deal of around $85 each) than the ferry. Seeing Downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park and Lions Gate Bridge from the air was an added bonus.

Photo Mike's
There wasn't much accommodation left when we booked Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel and Suites. We were upgraded to an Executive Suite - two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and massive living area with an amazing view of Victoria. Breakfast was included (Continental). The suite included numerous beauty products, a spa bath, fireplace and balcony.

Image from expedia.com
Our 90 minute ride with Victoria Hippo Tours on Happy Hippo (a school bus converted into something part bus, part boat) was informative and fun. We learnt the history of Victoria, saw the Government Buildings, Museum and Empire Hotel from both the street and the water. We also passed Chinatown, the Children's Zoo, Beacon Hill Park, and saw a lighthouse.

The Empire Hotel

Government Building
On our walk back to the hotel along the busy waterfront we stopped at The Docks for dinner, scoring 15% off with our tour ticket.

Victoria is cute and very English - I wish I'd had time to have High Tea at the Empress Hotel, but we could only stay one night so after breakfast the next morning we checked out and headed for the Victoria Clipper Terminal for our ferry to Seattle.

Waiheke Island

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Easily accessible via a short 40 minute taxi ride from downtown Auckland, Waiheke Island has a micro-climate and relaxed feel. Getting around is easy with the option of taking a car ferry, or hiring a scooter or car over there.

Expect to pay around $60 to cross the island (8km) from the Ferry Terminal to the beach via taxi, but for only $9 you can get an all day bus pass which is much better value. Then, if you were to only get off the bus at one stop and wanted to visit as many wineries as possible, Onetangi Road clusters Te MotuStonyridge (for views and great cheese platters), and Wild on Waiheke together.

If you are looking for somewhere to stay, Onetangi Courtyard Apartments are spacious and sunny apartments with washing facilities, full kitchens and access to shared amenities including a spa pool. They are not just near the beach but also Charlie Farley's and 4th Avenue which are easy brunch/ lunch solutions.

For a special meal, Casita Miro, is in Metro's top 50 in Auckland in 2014. Our host prompted us to try Sherry, Green Olives and Roasted Almonds, all of which were lovely. The fish and octopus were highlights.


Cable Bay is a final must-visit. The views from the lawn of Auckland City on a clear day are amazing.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

When Laura and Caitlin moved to Vancouver I promised to visit as soon as I could.

Science World at night
Mike (and his broken hand) came with me and we were stoked our requested upgrades (one allowed per year as Air New Zealand Silver Airpoints members) to Premium Economy came through. Our Space Seats were awesome.


For familiarisation we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour with Vancouver Trolley Company. The first time we hopped off was at The Stanley Park Teahouse for lunch.

The bus pass also gave us a one way pass on a small ferry to Granville Island to see Vancouver from the water and peruse the markets. 

We had a window shopping wander down Robson Street and then Laura took us along the waterfront from Canada Place and into Stanley Park for sea and mountain vistas. We passed Seaplanes, the grassy Convention Centre, houseboats, and the Light Shed artwork and totem poles.

A group of us Kiwi's saw the Vancouver Canadians (canadiansbaseball.com) at Nat Bailey stadium. They lost, and it was not a high scoring game, but it was really fun.


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.

Key Learning - pictures on Expedia are not necessarily to be believed as they are obviously promoting the hotel in best posible light. When our three nights were up we moved to The Sheraton at Vancouver Wall Centre for the next three - an upgrade of two stars for very little extra money.


Laura and Caitlin took us to Cactus Club Vancouver Coal Harbour offered yummy burgers and Calamari as well as a Watermelon Margarita on special.

Craft Beer Market was another recommendation by our hosts. It has over 100 beers on tap. I had the locals tasting float which changes weekly, as does their International alternative.

Tim Hortons (which I wanted to visit thanks to How I Met Your Mother), Johnnie Foxes Irish Snug, The Winking Judge and Breka were all rated highly on TripAdvisor and proved their worth.

North Vancouver

Free shuttles run regularly from the city to Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspention Bridge Park and Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver both of which I recommend visiting.

Photobombed on Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Grouse Grind - 2083 steps, 2.9km climb up Grouse Mountain took me 1 hr 22 minutes and was much harder than I anticipated.

At the top we saw bears, a bald eagle and a (really cheesy) lumberjack show and recovered with peach cider  and a salmon burger. It was cloudy so the promised view of Vancouver was absent.

After 5 days in Vancouver Mike and I were ready to move on and see more of Canada. Stay tuned!

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