Dinner at Cinc Sentis Restaurant in Barcelona, Spain

Last month, I was with my husband in Barcelona in Spain to celebrate his 30th birthday. During our last day in this beautiful city, we booked a table at the famous local restaurant – Cinc Sentis. It made me question what do I consider to be the perfect dining experience? For me it’s firstly great food then service and lastly the atmosphere. Cinc Sentis definitely exceeded my expectation and I can definitely say that our lunch there was the best meal we had whilst in Barcelona.

I loved the restaurant philosophy which follows the Catalan proverb:

‘He who eats well and drinks well, does everything right’. 
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Location:

The Cinc Sentis restaurant is located in central Barcelona very close to Universitat tube station and is around 10min walk from the Placa De Catalunya.

Atmosphere:

The decoration of Cinc Sentis restaurant is modern and elegant.

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It is run by a Michellin star chef – Jordi Artal who aims to share a vision of modern Catalan cuisine with its dinners. His goal is to create memorable gastronomic experiences designed to engage the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

From the moment we arrived, the waiting staff at the restaurant were all knowledgeable, warm and inviting. There was some quiet music playing in the background…

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The menu:

Cinc Sentis offers 2 testing menus (4 and 6 dishes) which are inspired by the freshest ingredients currently in season, as well as Catalonia’s culinary traditions.

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In additions diners have an opportunity to select a pairing of wines that have been carefully chosen to harmonize with the flavours and aromas of each course. All the wines in the restaurant pairings are exclusively Catalan and Spanish.

What these menus have in common is that they change seasonally and they are the same at both lunch and dinner, so the dining experience is identical. Before we started, we were asked if we had any allergies and our waitress explained that every course we’ll  receive will be a surprise. As we had a flight to catch, we decided to try a testing menu 4 with a pairing of some carefully selected wines. Our waitress explained that we will get:

  • 5 tapas dishes
  • 1 starter
  • 1 fish dish
  • 1 meat dish
  • 1 pre-dessert
  • 1 dessert

I love being surprised and Cinc Sentis offers its dinners a really unique experience where you do not exactly know what you will get for any of the courses until they arrive. I really enjoy this concept as it stimulates conversation and the discovery part enables your senses to bring back some food memories or discover some new textures.

Whilst we were waiting for our food to arrive, we received a delicious shot based on maple syrup, cream, cava sabayon and sea salt. I am not much of a drinker but I really enjoyed it.

Our first course consisted of 5 tapas dishes:

  • Iberian Jamon de bellota;
  • Grilled vegetable flatbread with olive oil ‘caviar’;
  • Freshly shucked baby clams with Cinc Sentis secret sauce number 3;
  • Salt-baked potato, bonito tuna belly, carrot & green bean puree
  • Anchovy with quince paste and pickled pepper.

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They were all mouth-watering and delicious. This course was accompanied by some Cinc Sentis Vermouth wine which was full of aromas and nicely complemented our tapas.

Next, we received our starter-a dish called ‘ Land and Sea of Catalonia’ which was based on some baby peas, pea shoots, pea essence, black truffle, anise sea urchin, razor clams, green apple and ice plant. It was really enjoyable.

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Moving on, we received some fried oysters with lemon and salsify-they were divine.

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This dish was accompanied by some Contino Blanco 2015 wine.

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This dish was followed by a smoked hen’s egg with crisp thyme brown butter breadcrumbs and pickled onion.

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It as accompanied by some Pre Pairal 1999 wine which worked perfectly with it.

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Next, we received some our main showcasing different parts of duck: duck breast with sauteed pear, duck leg with some red wine gel and pistachio in addition to some roasted duck wing and neck pancake with some pear chutney.

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It was my favorite dish which was simply amazing! It was accompanied by some Magnum Acos 2007 wine.

For our pre-dessert, our waitress brought us some ‘lemon textures’ consisting of some lemon sorbet, lemon cake, lemon meringue and vodka ice sorbet to clean the palette. It was very refreshing.

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If you regularly read my blog, then you will probably know that I have a very bad sweet tooth. As soon as I saw our dessert which was restaurants interpretation of a famous Ferrero Rocher, I couldn’t wait to try it.

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It was simply delectable and was based on some toasted hazelnut mousse, candied hazelnuts with yogurt powder and tangerine sorbet. Our dessert was accompanied by some Moscatel Montegudo wine.

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As a final temptation, just before we asked for our bill, we received some signature cheesecake with carmelised apple and white chocolate. What an amazing, unexpected treat!

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Overall experience:

We both loved every minute of our unique gastronomic experience at the Cinc Sentis based on sampling and discovering some great locally sourced food. Each dish was beautifully presented and made from fresh seasonal foods. In addition to the food, the service was very knowledgeable and welcoming and the restaurant is centrally located so I would definitely visit it again when I am back in Barcelona.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://cincsentits.com/en/

Address:

Carrer d’Aribau 58,

08011 Barcelona, Spain

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Our dinner at Informal Restaurant in Barcelona, Spain

As you are probably aware, I love travelling and I am a massive foodie. During my recent trip to Barcelona, I visited lots of local restaurant and bars but only 2 of them really stood out from the rest. Today, I would like to tell you about my experience at Informal Restaurant in Barcelona.

Location:

The Informal Restaurant is located in the Serras Hotel in Barcelona. It is situated in a famous Bari Gotic area, just a few minutes away from Barceloneta station. It is a 7 minute walk from Las Ramblas.

Atmosphere:
The whole hotel has a minimalist, modern decor with its linen fabrics, neutral colors and use of materials like iron and wood that connect it to the surrounding marina. As soon as we entered the restaurant we were welcome by a friendly hostess and introduced to Rodrigo who was our waiter throughout the evening. There was a relaxing music playing at the background. In the middle of the restaurant there was an open kitchen and grill which was great as you could admire your food being made.

The menu:

The menu at Informal Restaurant is developed by Michelin Star Chef Marc Gascons who focuses or Catalan and Mediterranean specialties. He aims to provide its dinners with a delicious selection of dishes made using locally sourced products from land and sea.

The restaurant offers a nice selection of dishes but we decided to order from ‘Menu Experience: Picasso’.

To start with, we ordered a few tapas dishes to share:

  • some homemade toasted flat bread with tomato and extra virgin olive oil;

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  • salted anchovies from L’Escala with olive oil and pepper;

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  • mixed salad of green beans, green peas, Iberian ham and black truffle;
  • steamed artichokes, bulgur, celeriac, orange vinaigrette and black truffle;

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  • patatas bravas;
  • free-range chicken roast croquettes.

For my main I decided to have a roasted monkfish with peas, squid and chicken juice. It was mouth watering!

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My husband had some succulent veal with potato parmentier and some seasonal mushrooms. His meal was simply amazing and he thought that it was the best veal he’s ever eaten which is a big statement to make as we eat out at least twice a week.

I love desserts and I was looking forward to trying some of Informal Restaurant’s roast apple dessert with puff pasty, pine nuts and lemon cream. It was delicious!

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My husband ordered some chocolate ice cream and gnache with olive oil and salt. It was a perfect combination of sweet and salty experiences in one dessert.

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Overall experience:
We both enjoyed our dinner at Informal Restaurant. Chef Marc Gascons offers its diners a great selection of some of the best best local food with a modern twist. Throughout our meal the service was friendly and attentive. They made us feel relaxed and welcomed. The restaurant is also very conveniently located so I would definitely visit it again next time I am in Barcelona.

Website:
For more information and to book visit:

https://hoteltheserrasbarcelona.com/en/informal.html

Address:

Carrer de la Plata, 4,

08002 Barcelona, Spain

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Barcelona, Spain

It was my husband’s 30th birthday last week so I decided to treat him to a mini-break to Spain. I love Barcelona and as he has never been there before, it was a very easy decision to make whilst deciding where to take him.

Barcelona is the largest city of Catalonia, and the second most populous municipality of Spain. It has a population of 1.6 million within city limits which makes it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan.

There are many places worth visiting in Barcelona. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  1. Sagrada Familia – a landmark church designed by Antonio Gaudí
  2. Park Güell – a lovely park with mosaic-covered buildings, steps and sculptures providing amazing panoramic views of Barcelona. It was meant to be an exclusive housing complex with 60 houses however only 2 houses were build and a show home where Gaudi stayed was transformed recently into a museum.
  3. Casa Milà – another beautiful building by Antonio Gaudi popularly known as La Pedrera or “open quarry”, a reference to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance.
  4. La Rambla – a street in central Barcelona, popular with tourists and locals alike. Great for shopping or a bit of relaxation in one of its many eateries.
  5. Plaça de Catalunya – the most famous square filled with fountains and sculptures surrounded with many shops & cafes.
  6. La Barceloneta – a beach located short walk from the central Barcelona.
  7. Palau Nacional – hilltop museum for 11th- to 20th-century Catalan art plus important Romanesque collection.
  8. Arc de Triomf – Classical archway built as the main entrance to the Universal Exhibition hosted by the city in 1888.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Universal Orlando Resort, Florida, USA

I have recently visited Universal Orlando Resort with my husband. It is based in Orlando in Florida (USA).

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Universal Orlando consists of three theme parks:

  1. Universal Studios Florida,
  2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure,
  3. Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park.

If you like theme parks then you will love Universal resorts as it brings yours and your children stories, myths, cartoons and tales to life. As we were in the resort only for a day we decided to visit only 2 out of 3 parks.

Firstly, we made our way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This park consists of lots of theme specific attractions such as:

  • ‘Skull Island: Reign of Kong’ – multi-dimensional, interactive ride on a mysterious island.

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  • ‘Marvel Super Hero Island’ – where you can find attraction such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (3D thrill ride) , The Incredible Hulk Coaster (high-speed roller coaster) or a Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.
  • ‘Toon Lagoon’ with a range of water rides.
  • ‘Jurassic Park’ where dinosaurs have been brought back to life.
  • ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade’ where you can walk around the Hogwarts castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade and enjoy some more exciting rides.

As we had a Park-to-Park admission ticket, we were able ride the Hogwarts Express train from Universal Islands of Adventure to jump in to the 9 and 3/4 platform at Kings Cross in London. As I love the Harry Potter movies, it was a great experience as I was able see characters and creatures from the movies whilst commuting between the parks.

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Once we disembarked the train, we were at the  Universal Studios Florida. This second amusement park consists of many picture and television studios where guests can experience films and TV shows at the variety of locations. There were many attractions to enjoy and these were my favourite ones:

  • ‘Production Central’ where you can experience TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, Shrek 4-D or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
  • ‘New York’ where you can experience a thrilling Revenge of the Mummy the Ride or party with the The Blues Brothers.
  • World Expo where you can take the rides with the characters from The Simpsons or shoot some aliens on a MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack ride.

To sum up, we had an unforgettable day full of adventure experiencing many cutting edge and interactive rides. If you are looking for spectacular entertainment for the whole family then you should definitely visit Orlando Resort. In addition, there are many on-site hotels and eateries for an endless fun. I would definitely recommend to visit for a few days though. Although we had an amazing day, our visit felt rushed as we were running from one attraction to another. I will definitely visit this resort again however next time I will stay for a few days to enjoy it fully.

For more information visit:

https://www.universalorlando.co.uk/

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Pauline

Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, the Breakaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Breakaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Shopping in Queens Centre– the most diverse borough in NYC

As some of you know I love shopping. I was in New York City over the Thanksgiving period and as a result I was able to do some Black Friday shopping. The options on where to shop whilst in New York are all but limitless. New York has some of the best department stores in the world, including Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and countless Fifth Avenue boutique shops. I was advised by my friend to go shopping in Queens Center and I really enjoyed it. I love shopping and for all the shopaholics among us, a destination filled with shops, boutiques as well as eateries to escape the busy hustle and bustle of shops sounds like the ideal day out. Well for me, it certainly was as I left my husband at the hotel after our breakfast and spent my day at Queens Centre. I ended up being there for 6 hours and came back with multiple shopping bags filled with goods from Kiko Milano, Gap and my beautiful new handbag and pouch from Armani Exchange in addition to some other bits and bobs. In addition, I also managed to collect almost 19,000 steps on my iWatch. Clearly shopping is not only good for your mind. I often go shopping to treat myself when I am stressed but what I also realized that it clearly made me more active on that day.

Stores: 

The Queens Centre has recently been renovated and offers its visitors an opportunity to shop in the modern, spacious surroundings. I discovered that Queens Center attracts nearly 27 million shoppers annually, compared to:
– 20 million visitors to Niagara Falls
– 17.4 million visitors to Disneyland
That is more than the combined, annual total number of visitors to: The Eiffel Tower (7 million) or The Statue of Liberty (4.2 million) so you should definitely check it out!

Everyone can find the brands they like in there ranging from a very popular JCPenney’s and Macy’s, Apple, A|X Armani Exchange, to all other known retailers such as TDisney Store, Hollister, MAC, Swarovski, Forever 21, H&M or Michael Kors. I went to many of these stores and managed to splash some cash on the goods from GAP, Kiko Milano, Armani Exchange as well as some small bits and bobs from the other brands. I was offered a first class suburban shopping experience in an urban environment.

If you feel you need a break from all the shopping, it makes sense to enjoy one of the eateries. In addition, you can also grab some chocolates from Godiva or a piece of cake from The Cheescake Factory to enjoy later.

Discounts: 

As I was in Queens Centre during the Black Friday the discounts were pretty hefty however if you decide to visit this great mall during other periods of the year then some special discounts are available to all out-of-town guests. When I went to the Concierge (that is located at the top floor of the mall) and provided her with my Business Card I received the Visitors Savings URL and the secret Password that gave me the access to the deals! You should definitely check it out!

Location & how to get there:

Queens Centre is located in the heart of Queens in Elmhurst in New York. Queens is a dynamic borough rich in Arts & Culture and can be described as the most diverse borough in New York City.  If you would like to experience live entertainment, music performances or art galleries then you should definitely add it to your travel itinerary whilst in NYC.

Queens Centre is easily accessible by public transport – I took a subway train to get there and it only took 35 min from Manhattan. It is well placed and a mass transit hub, at the intersections of Queens Boulevard, the Long Island Expressway and Woodhaven
Boulevard.

Opening hours :

These opening hours change during the special events like i.e. Black Friday when Queens Centre was open until 2a.m. but usually the Queens Centre is open until 10 p.m. at most days.

Address:

90-15 Queens Blvd

Elmhurst, NY 11373

Website: 

http://www.shopqueenscenter.com/

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: New York, USA

I have recently traveled to the USA with my husband for our autumn / winter holidays. Our first stop was New York City.  It is the most densely populated city in the USA and it has a population of 8.5 million. New York City is one of the most famous cities worldwide and it has been described as the cultural, financial and media capital of the world. New York City consists of five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. I have recently read that there 800 languages are spoken in New York, which makes it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known and 61 million tourists visited the city in 2016. There are many places worth visiting in New York. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  • Empire State Building – a perfect way to see the city’s major highlights from the highest building in New York.
  • Statue of Liberty – a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City.
  • Grand Central Terminal – beautiful train station with a wide range of shops and eateries to relax in.
  • Fifth Avenue – a famous shopping street with a range of boutique and high-street brands where you can shop until you drop.
  • Times Square – exciting and colorful square that just cannot be missed. Sometimes referred to as the Crossroads of the World.

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  • Rockefeller Center (Top of The Rock experience) – an observatory on top of Rockefeller Center, with great city views.
  • National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey – amazing entertainment experience in the heart of Times Square which uses ground-breaking technology that takes its attendees on a journey into the ocean. It is super interactive with escaping sea creatures and underwater maze. A perfect destination for a day out with a family especially if you have kids as everyone can experience being face-to-face with whales and sharks, squids or sea lions.
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – an American military and maritime history museum. I especially enjoyed learning more about the Space Shuttle ‘Enterprise’ – the first space shuttle, a Cold War-era submarine Growler and British Airways Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial jet that can take passengers from London to New York in under 3 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline