Tag: New York

An updated travel hitlist

I’ve been lucky enough in the past couple of years to tick some places off my travel hitlist (namely Dubrovnik, Athens and Santorini), so obviously I need to replace those places with more!

It’s been ages since I wrote my travel hitlist part 1 and part 2, so here’s an up to date version. Some are the same, some are new, and all of them look amazing!

Seville

Travel Hitlist - Seville

I was inspired to visit Seville by Nina’s blog posts and photographs – she loves it so much she’s been twice. It has a reputation for fabulous architecture, incredible tapas and is the home of flamenco. Plus it has a very temperate climate so is an ideal year round destination.

Lisbon

Travel hitlist Lisbon

This was firmly on my first list and remains there untouched; second only to Seville on the city break wish list. Traditional trams, small streets and pretty coloured buildings. Sign me up!

Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Closer to home, but seemingly harder to fulfil because we always look to going further afield when it comes to holidays (and summer in the UK is such an indecisive fellow). But plans may be afoot for this one…watch this space!

Cornwall

Another one that continually seems to evade us, and I appreciate that a whole county is being pretty vague, but highlights for me would be Tintagel (with the new walkway recently opened at the castle), Looe (I’ve only ever been there when the now defunct Looe Music Festival was taking place), and the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I’d love to venture as far as Penzance and Lands End, but so long in a car really puts me off!

Golden Triangle, India

This has been on my list since forever, and will remain on my list until I’m able to go there. The husband ums and ahs about going there (the amount of travelling and potential of Delhi Belly put him off!). At some point this may mean that I travel without him. I feel that it’s probably the one trip on earth that I’ll regret if I don’t do it, so if I have to go it alone then so be it! (not alone alone though, obvs, on some kind of group tour where I’ll probably hate everyone and they’ll hate me).

Frigiliana, Spain

This looks like one of the prettiest whitewashed Spanish villages I’ve ever seen, and I know people who have been there and said it’s absolutely beautiful. There’s nothing to do there so it would be a few days of good food, chilling by the pool (it’s in the mountains) and marvelling at just how picturesque it is. Maybe a day trip by bus into Nerja, which is the nearest coastal town. Sounds like a good use of time to me!

New York

Obviously this is a bit of a sore point for me, as we were supposed to go this coming September; taking advantage of super bargainous flights and an incredibly good Airbnb deal. If you read this blog regularly (not that I’d blame you if you didn’t – my posting schedule is intermittent at best!) you’d know that the Airbnb fell through and left us high and dry. Despite my protestations that “New York can go fuck itself” I do still really want to go there, if only to say I’ve been! (especially as two people in my office are going soon and I will have the jealousy)

Of course there are LOADS of other places in the world I’d like to go, but I’d say these are currently the most pressing; the ones I’d like to tick off before any others. Which to do first? We’ll have to see what happens!

Do you have a travel hitlist? Where in the world are you just dying to visit? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

0

My first (and last?!) experience with Airbnb

Remember earlier this year when I shared my travel plans for 2019? Including my first foray into Airbnb for a trip to New York in September?

Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.

Last Saturday, with no explanation, I received an email from Airbnb to tell me my 6 night reservation at an apartment in Greenwich Village had been cancelled, and I’d be receiving a refund for monies paid so far.

Say what?

Surely there’s been a mistake?

My first thought was that there must have been some mistake. I sent a message to the host asking him why I’d received the cancellation notice.

Nothing.

I sent a Twitter DM to Airbnb asking if they could help. They checked my personal details and the reservation and confirmed that yes, it was cancelled. Had I contacted the host? (well yeah, duh). In which case they would get a “dedicated case manager” from a “specialised team” to get in touch with me.

In the meantime I obviously started looking for alternative accommodation. We knew when we booked the ill fated apartment that it was incredibly good value for a stay in New York so, unsurprisingly, there was little out there in a similar price range. Hotels were coming up at £600 more than the Airbnb, and there were no other Airbnb apartments in the location we wanted.

Side note – New York accommodation is bonkersly expensive. £200 a night to sleep in a bunk bed with a shared bathroom? Daylight robbery!

Airbnb, while polite, were annoyingly hands off in terms of taking any responsibility. Their response when I asked for some compensation to cover the additional costs of rebooking was “Airbnb is a third party platform that bridges the gap between hosts and guests, and we do not offer compensation when a guest has to cancel a reservation.”

Screw you New York!

At this point we’d pretty much mentally checked out the trip. I’d been in touch with the airline to see if we could get any refund on the flights (we can get the tax refunded, which means losing about £300 total, which is still cheaper than paying £600+ for a hotel).

Meanwhile, the host had responded to advise that his property needs to undergo renovations and repairs (they mus be pretty major, because it’s still 3 months until our trip, sounds a bit fishy to me), and his reply included lots of exclamation marks and a seemingly non genuine apology, so that pissed me off even more!

Airbnb then offered me a £50 coupon (generous…not) and sent through some suggestions of alternative properties, conceding that the coupon wouldn’t cover the difference in cost but it would help. This was then upped to a groundbreaking £75. The apartments were an extra £300. You do the maths.

To cut a long story short…

We decided that one of the suggested apartments might be ok. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but was better than nothing. And then we went to look into booking it and THE LISTING HAD DISAPPEARED!!!!

What fresh absolute fuckery! Airbnb’s response this time around “if you cannot access the listing then I would assume that it has been removed by the host. We do not have the option to check any further.”

Any last shred of wanting to use them evaporated there and then. Absolutely no faith whatsoever that we wouldn’t end up in the same situation all over again closer to our departure date.

Although I don’t want to use them again, I do now have £75 credit to use within a year! Which means that I inevitably will use them again. Next time will be for a UK stay only where there are no massive repercussions if it does get cancelled, and no flights or travel plans to pay for.

I’ve since heard cancellation stories from 4 different people, which I wish I’d known in advance of the original booking. I had no idea that Airbnb take no responsibility for cancelled bookings. When a host cancels they get charged a 50 dollar “fine” and can’t relist on the Airbnb site during that time period. But if you’ve managed to let your space for more money elsewhere then 50 bucks isn’t going to cause you any heartache.

I’m sure there are way more success stories than negatives out there, but that’s it for me!

Have you ever used Airbnb? Let me know your experiences.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

1+

Travel plans for 2019

Travel plans 2019 - hand holding small globe

I’m the kind of person who is pretty much always a year ahead with travel plans, because there are so many places I want to see. It’s rare to start a new year with no clue of where we’re going – the bones are usually in place and I’m already thinking ahead to the following year. When your “to visit” list is long and your annual leave is short (in comparison), it’s inevitable you’ll think ahead.

This year was quite the exception

With the shambles that is Brexit I’ve felt wary of European travel. Neither the husband or I had any concrete “let’s do this” feelings as a result. The original front runner was our favourite place in Greece, but with rumours that Thomas Cook airlines are in some trouble, which is our only way to get there, that seemed a bit risky.

Also, as it’s my Mother in Law’s 80th birthday in June, I thought we should plan a trip with her. There’s nothing we could buy her that she doesn’t already have, and memories are so much more valuable than stuff. I know that in years to come we’ll look back happily on time together exploring a new destination. And of course we’ll have a great time while we’re there!

So, without further ado, here’s what we decided on.

March – 5 days in Lanzarote

Not a “to visit” list destination but the thought of a few days in the sun while the UK is struggling to make it’s way into Spring was very appealing! Food, drink, sleep, reading books, seafront walks and sunshine; what’s not to like? We’re going to head out into the island for the day too and visit Timanfaya National Park to see the volcanic landscape.

Travel plans 2019 Timanfaya National Park
Image from https://www.hellocanaryislands.com/

Late May – Bergen, Norway

Technically June, as we arrive at Bergen airport just after midnight on the 1st for 3 days of exploring with my Mother in Law. She mentioned to me many years ago that she would love to visit the Fjords, but was resigned to the fact she never would because the friends she goes on holiday with wouldn’t be interested. Step in the husband with her 80th birthday present! Bergen looks very pretty, with coloured wooden houses surrounding the old harbour, and a funicular railway up to Mount Floyen from where you can view the whole city below.

Travel plans 2019 - Bergen coloured houses

We’ll take the Bergen railway, considered to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque train journeys in the world, connecting with the Flam railway which holds the same accolade. We’ll do a couple of fjord cruises (details yet to be finalised) and probably get very confused by the midnight sun! I have to say that Norway has never been on my agenda. But once I started investigating it looks absolutely beautiful so I’m really looking forward to this.

September – New York baby!

Well, this one came completely out of the blue. Not that we haven’t talked about it – New York is on everyone’s list, surely? It’s just never quite made it to the top, for me, because of the cost, and the vast amount of stuff to see in a short space of time. You see, I always thought of New York as being a city break. Maybe 3-4 nights, running around like a loon, feeling the pressure from jet lag and perhaps not quite doing it justice in one trip.

But then, an email from Jack’s Flight Club advertising return Virgin flights for under £300 (not a typo) and a quick Airbnb search offering up an apartment in Greenwich Village at a very reasonable cost started the rudiments of a plan. The husband has been before and always said he’d love to go back. He wanted a slightly longer trip instead of a just a quick break. So we settled on 6 nights/7 days and that was that! I sent him a text about the flight offer at around 10.30am. By 8pm that same day we were booked!

Travel plans 2019 New York skyline
Image from TripAdvisor

We’ll do all the tourist stuff, obvs. It’s been 20 years since the husband was there, so he’ll benefit from a refresher!! Those extra couple of days will allow us the time to just hang out, eat (I’m excited for a reuben sandwich at Katz’s deli, which is right in our neighbourhood), chill, and soak up the atmosphere. Preferable to just running round like headless chickens ticking off places we need to see.

Oh, and it’s my first ever foray into the world of Airbnb, which I think could be travel-changing!

So there you have it!

Our planned and booked travels for the year 2019. None of which I would have predicted if you’d asked me this time last year. But all of which I’m super chuffed with.

Hoping to sneak in a couple of UK visits too. Every year I talk about Cornwall. So, if we get another amazing summer like last year, that may be a long weekend contender.

And then it’s time to start thinking about 2020!

Have you finalised any travel plans for 2019 yet? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

1+

Comedy Central Friends-fest at Bute Park in Cardiff

Who doesn’t like Friends? (this is a rhetorical question, but if you actually don’t then there’s probably no point reading on). Watching Friends is like putting on your comfiest clothes – you know what to expect and can just sink into it’s warm familiarity. Yes you know what’s coming, and yes you know the jokes, but could you BE any more content? (Chandler-ism!)

So many Friends sayings have worked their way into every day vocabulary (certainly mine!) and the fact that the show is on Comedy Central pretty much all the time means you’re only ever a flick of the channel away from those 6 people who you’ve never met, but just know you’d get on with brilliantly in real life (with the exception of Ross, obvs).

When Comedy Central announced “Friends-fest” was going on tour this year (following it’s initial launch in London in 2016) I was determined to go. The closest location to us was Cardiff (close being a figurative term here, as it’s still a 100+ mile drive) but I figured we could make a day of it and so I got tickets as part of the husband’s birthday present.

The website said that a visit to the site should take around 2.5 hours, including the set tour which you had to book a timeslot for.

The website had huge delusions of grandeur in terms of how you could spend the 2 hours that weren’t the set tour. We were done in 30 minutes, and that included a pit stop for a “MY SANDWICH” (remember the Ross episode?) which cost an eye watering £6.50 each.

Let me explain. The site was in a fenced off area of Bute Park, in Cardiff city centre. It wasn’t very big. It comprised of a few different areas / set recreations where you could queue to get your photograph taken, a big screen with lots of deckchairs where you could sit and watch back to back episodes of Friends, a shop, a bar and the set tour area.

Friendsfest big screen

There was a covered area where you could queue to recreate the opening sequence, complete with multi coloured umbrellas and the queue was probably 15 minutes long.

Friendsfest opening credit

The husband hates getting his pic taken and I’d look a bit of a wally sitting there on my own, so there was little point in that.

There was the Central Perk recreation in a separate tent, which was quite good. There are spots to pose outside the café, behind Gunther’s counter, on the famous sofa, and on Phoebe’s stool in the window with a guitar and there were staff dotted around to take photos on camera phones, which was good, but it was hard to get a good pic because there were lots and lots of people milling around so it felt a bit conveyor belt-ish.

There was a very poor almost cardboard cut out recreation of the front of the wedding chapel where Ross and Rachel got married, a very tenuous Lincoln High graduation ceremony background and some cheesy props for people to use (this area felt like they were desperately trying to add some value to the whole experience but failing miserably) and a NY taxi and an NYPD car.

Food and drinks wise there was Monica’s Moonshine diner (a food van with a really small America diner seating area in an open fronted tent), a food van that sold the afore mentioned sandwich…

Friendsfest Ross sandwich

…plus nachos and pulled pork sandwiches, snacks in the café attached to Central Perk and a small bar overlooking the big screen.

It all felt very thrown together and amateur.

The best bit was the set tour, which as I mentioned was a booked time slot. We were ushered into a pre-set area which had some original costumes and props from across the show – this was pretty interesting and I think could have been expanded on to give more value for money.

We were then directed round to the two main apartments featured in the show which were connected by the corridor as you see it on TV. This was quite surreal to look at, because it was like seeing the contents of your TV with your own eyes!

We were in Joey and Chandler’s apartment first.

Then the hallway.

Friendsfest the hallway

Then Monica’s apartment.

We were encouraged to get on set, sit on chairs and take photos, but there were so many people that again it felt cramped and it was difficult to get around everything without being in someone’s way. The good thing was that at the end of each set, the chaperone for our group ordered everyone off, so we were able to get some clear shots.

And then that was it! A 2.5 hour drive each way and £40 worth of petrol for a very sub standard hour. Oh, and did I mention the tickets cost £22.50 each????

Most of the experience panders to today’s selfie and “look, I was there” culture and felt very much like ticking a box for a photograph at every location rather than any in depth, behind the scenes, this is worth the money, I’ve found something new about one of my favourite shows content.

In case you’re wondering, and I haven’t made it clear, I wouldn’t recommend it. If tickets were a tenner and it came to your local town then maybe worth a look. But £22.50 is a hugely overpriced rip off and left me with a bitter taste (and it wasn’t coffee from Central Perk).

To quote my friend Ellen “When no-one told you Friends-fest was going to be this way” clap clap clap clap…

Are you a Friends fan? Do you have a favourite? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

0

The Big 4-0: Where to Go?

I’ll be 40 in December. 5 months today, in fact.

40 mug

I’ll spare you all the “how did that happen” bollocks, all the “I still feel like I’m in my 20s” bollocks and all the “if I could do it all over again” bollocks, because a) it’s bollocks, b) it’s dull and c) it’s pretty obvious! It happened, because life. I don’t know how old I feel, really, because I don’t know how 40 is supposed to feel, but I certainly don’t act how I think 40 year old grown ups acted when I was a kid. And I wouldn’t do it all over again, thanks. I’m very happy and settled in my life, with myself, with my relationship and with my home, compared to school years and early 20s which were a troubled cocktail of confusion at times!

The biggest issue I have with turning 40 at the moment (and I reserve the right to change this to sheer panic as the date gets closer!) is how to celebrate. More specifically where to celebrate. I’m not a party type person. Not to say I don’t like parties, or social occasions, or fun (I do, and I excel at them, at least in my own head!) but the thought of having a party for me just ticks no boxes at all. If anyone were to organise a surprise party for me I would be livid. It would also be pretty impossible anyway, because my birthday is on 20th December and people tend to be so caught up in Christmas parties/works parties/shopping/visiting family/spending money on presents that there isn’t necessarily room for ickle old me in their plans (this is not a pity statement in anyway, I’m cool with it, I’ve had 39 years to be ok with it and the people that matter always make a fuss regardless).

So, back to the impending 40th. I know it’s just another day, and another year older, and nothing will change, but somehow it feels like I should do something a bit special. And I have always thought/expected that something special would involve a trip. A holiday. And I always wanted the destination to be Goa or New York.

Now the time has come to make plans though, neither of those are really feasible. There’s the proximity to Christmas, obvs. I don’t want to be away over Christmas, because that’s family time, which therefore means travelling before Christmas and having a really long Christmas holiday which neither my bank balance or waistline would thank me for. Also, with moving house this year, annual leave is at a premium i.e I don’t have enough left to take time off for a long haul trip (that’s Goa out of the question). And New York would be incredibly cold (although pretty) and what if we got snowed in and couldn’t get home for Christmas Day? Too risky.

I suppose I could plan the trip for January, but it’s not my birthday then, so…

This leaves me the option of Europe. And while there are heaps of places I want to go in Europe, most of them lend themselves to summer. Lisbon? Summer. Seville? Summer. Dubrovnik? Summer. I’ve been to Prague, and I’ve been to Budapest (for my 30th). Flight timetables tend to be less regular as Christmas gets closer and the limited annual leave I have left gives only a couple of days window of opportunity to fly.

My first thought was Amsterdam. I do want to go there, but don’t really link it with any particular season in my head, so it seemed like a decent idea. It’s a short flight from the UK and there are lots of airlines serving Schipol airport. But the husband said he thinks of it as more of a warm days/light nights destination for wandering the streets and sitting outside street cafes, so the idea was shelved.

So far the frontrunner is now Rome. It has enough epicness to be worthy of a 40th birthday (History? Check! Architecture? Check! Food & wine? Check, check, check!) It’s close enough to fly to for just a few days; the last few years have been surprisingly mild in December, and it will probably be less busy than high season which means shorter queues for attractions, more choice of hotels and less crowded restaurants. I like the idea of hunkering down eating steaming bowls of pasta and sipping red wine in cosy cafes in between marvelling at the Coliseum, St Peters Basilica and the Spanish Steps. There’s an early morning flight from Manchester on the day of my birthday, which would be a pretty exciting start to the celebrations, and the flight home leaves us enough time for last minute preparations before Christmas Day.

Part of me thinks I’m being selfish wanting to be away so close to Christmas, when we’ll already have lots of stuff to do. But then the spoilt brat in me thinks it’s not my fault I was born so close to Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and that if my birthday was any other time of year there’s be no issue in going on a trip. I’m already kinda compromising… (told you, spoilt brat!)

What do you guys think? Should I plough on regardless? Wait til January? Is Rome a good idea or do you have any other suggestions? Help an aging girl out…!!

Thanks, as always, for reading x

0

5 more destinations on my travel hitlist

A while ago I posted the top 5 places on my travel bucket list. But there’s nothing like coming back from a trip to make you think about all the other places you really want to go to!

I’ve realised I was way too optimistic in keeping it to just 5, so I’m going to do a part deux, in order to give myself more things to tick off (or, stress myself even more with regards to too many places, not enough time and money!)

Lisbon
It looks so quaint, with it’s winding streets and old fashioned street trams (I’m a sucker for a tram). I’ve never been to Portugal as it’s never really appealed for a beach holiday, but city-wise it has a lot to offer me. I also want to go to Porto which is full of bright coloured houses. It’s possible to do both in one trip, travelling by train in between.

 Lisbon

Tokyo
Wow. Tokyo just looks amazing. So bright, so busy, so frantic. I think it would be like nowhere else I’ve ever been and probably quite exhausting, but a total experience and feast for the eyes. Again it would be good to combine with more of Japan, like Osaka, and the connecting journey by bullet train would be a bucket list experience in itself.

Tokyo

Athens
The history! The architecture! It’s in Greece! (I love Greece!) I’ve looked into it and it’s feasible to add onto a trip to Santorini – fly into Athens from the UK, across to Santorini and then back to the UK. So hopefully, when we finally get around to going to Santorini, we can do Athens as well.

Athens

Krakow
I’ve never been to Poland but it looks fab. I always imagine it as a winter city break, wandering round all wrapped up and eating stodgy Eastern European food, but apparently it’s beautiful all year round. Warsaw is also on my list. It never used to be, as I imagined it to be very Eastern Bloc and grey, but a work colleague went a couple of years ago and said it was very beautiful.

Krakow

America
OK, so this is a huge cop out as I’m naming a country rather than a place! But it’s my blog and I make the rules! So much of America still to see. New York. The Deep South. Nashville. Dallas. Back to San Francisco to see more of it. So many possibilities. Next time we head over there I think we’ll make the most of the flight (both time and cost) and do a couple of places in one visit. Internal flights in the US are so cheap that it makes absolute sense.

America

So much of the world to explore…

What’s on your list?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

0