Holiday destinations: Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia National Park

I have recently traveled to beautiful Snowdonian village of Betws-y-Coed with my husband. Although we needed to cut our stay short due to family emergency, we had a very relaxing and enjoyable time.


Location:
Betws-y-Coed is a very lively and popular village in the Conwy valley in Northern Wales. It is one of the most visited villages in Snowdonia due to it’s great location that’s perfect for any gateways to the Snowdonia National Park.


Things to do:
Firstly, you must walk around the village and discover what it has to offer. The Pont-y-Pair bridge should be added to your list of places to see whilst in here as it’s stunning. The village itself is vibrant and full of shops and eateries ranging from cafés and bars to bistros and restaurants. Due to COVID you might want to pre-book otherwise you might not be able to dine in one of its lovely restaurants.
There are plenty of walks and hikes to choose from so whether you are looking for an easy walk or you are in for a difficult hike – I guarantee that you will find something that you will enjoy. We took a few short walks that started in Betws-y-Coed. In the morning we experienced Llyn Elsi train located just behind St.Mary’s Church. It was absolutely faboulous – breathtaking views and the scenery. The first 30 minutes were quite steep but afterwards it was an easy walk. It took us around 2 hours but we were not rushing and I stopped quite a few times to take some photos.

After our lunch we were all recharged and decided to take another walk from Betws-Y-Coed to Swallow Falls. I would probably advise to drive there rather than walk – there are a lot of parking spaces in Ty’n Llwyn car park in Gwydir Forest. If you decide to walk then, please be careful as there is no pedestrian path from Betws-y-Coed so you will need to walk on a busy road until you reach Ty’n Llwyn car park. Once you get there, Swallow Falls can be summarised as an area of outstanding natural beauty with a spectacular waterfall amongst a background of stunning colorful plants.


How to get there?

We drove as we live in Colchester however if you would rather relax and admire the nature you can take a train that will take you to Betws-y-Coed train station located in the middle of the village.

Final thoughts:

I really enjoyed our short break in the Snowdonia National Park and hope we’ll be able to come back here soon.

P.S. I was wearing my Maier Sports hiking gear from their Urban collection.

Holiday destinations: Hamburg, Germany

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend last week, we travelled to Hamburg in Germany. I’ve never there before so I was looking forward to discovering this second largest German city with the largest port. Hamburg has became one of the major centres for international trade due to its location and it continues to be one of the wealthiest cities build on maritime stories. Locals have mastered how to live well and if (like me) you like to indulge in diverse cuisine then you would enjoy your stay here as there are a plenty of great restaurants, bars and breweries to visit.

If you like sightseeing then you can take one of the sightseeing walking tours showing you the city’s highlights or grab a map and discover the major sites by yourself.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Speicherstadt – the largest warehouse district in the world located in the port of Hamburg with some signature red-brick warehouses, canals & museums.

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  • Elbphilharmonie Hamburg – a newly constructed concert hall in the HafenCity on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world which cost 8 times more to build than the Sydney Opera House.

  • Townhall and Alster – the seat of local government which is one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Located next to Hamburg’s most popular river – Alster leading to many shopping malls and boutiques.

  • Planten un Blomen – a large city park with a size of 47 hectares featuring themed gardens, a lake & Japanese tea house

How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Hamburg from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Stanstead and it took us slightly over 1 hour to get there. Perfect for a short weekend break.

Other tips:

Hamburg has a very good transport network and you should definitely get a Hamburg Card when you visit – it will cover all your travel in addition to some discounts i.e. to some of the top attractions, restaurants, river cruises etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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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

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 destinations: Bristol, UK

Last month my mum visited me in London and as I wanted to spend some quality mother-daughter time with her I booked us a weekend trip to Bristol. I was there last year after we got engaged so I have many happy memories in that city. We left London at 11a.m. and after a couple of hours on a train, we arrived in the centre of Bristol.

Bristol is a city in South West England with a population of almost half a million inhabitants. The Bristol metropolitan area is the 12th largest in the United Kingdom. The city buzzes with lively students and it is built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries. Bristol is one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations, and The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live in 2014 and 2017. The city has also recently won the EU’s European Green Capital Award.

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My mum was super excited about our trip and discovering the city.

The city is steeped in history and there is something spectacular everywhere you turn. Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting whilst in Bristol:

  • Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – located a short 10 min walk from the city centre this museum exhibits some outstanding collections of art, archaeology, Egyptology and natural history in a magnificent building.
  • Bristol Cathedral – England’s only hall church Cathedral
  • Clifton Suspension Bridge –  a suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset
  • Cabot Tower & Brandon Hill – set in the parkland and provides priceless views of the city.
  • Pero’s Bridge – pedestrian footbridge in honour of Pedro Jones.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review 🙂

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Milan, Italy

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my husband to Milan in Northern Italy. I’ve been in Milan a few times before as I love the cosmopolitan vibe offered by this global city which is perfect for anyone who loves the art, design, entertainment and fashion.

Milan has been recognised as one of the worlds fashion capitals and the famous Milan Fashion Week takes place here on a yearly basis. It is also one of the key European financial capitals and Italian stock exchange is based here.

Over 8 million visitors are attracted by Milan every year as the city has lots of heritage with some great museums and art galleries featuring some of the most famous collections in the world including works by Leonardo da Vinci.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Duomo di Milano – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world which completion took almost 600 years. Located on a Piazza del Duomo with many lively cafes and the elegant fashion shops.

  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the most beautiful and oldest shopping malls in the world featuring many designer boutiques based in a four-storey arcade opposite of Duomo di Milano in central Milan.

  • Sforzesco Castle – a castle built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza who was a Duke of Milan.

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  • Sempione Park – a large park leading to Sforzesco Castle which was established in 1888.

  • Teatro alla Scala – a well-known opera house which was established in 1778.

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How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Milan from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Heathrow and it took us slightly over 2 hours.

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: 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