Sunday, 30 June 2013

Honeymoon - Las Vegas.

The last leg of our honeymoon was one of our favourite places, Vgeas!! Having been before, we had a good idea of what we wanted to do this time round and so were able to plan a few things in advance.

People sometimes can't get past the idea of Vegas as just casinos and gambling. Now, there is a lot of that to do if that's what you're into but there is also so much more. Amazing restaurants, world class shopping, fun bars, musicals, shows and even just wondering around some incredible hotels. You can go from New York, to Paris,  to Venice to Rome on one street!

We were staying in the Luxor which is an Egyptian themed hotel at one end of the strip. All the hotels on the strip are good (we'd previously stayed at the MGM and have since stayed at New York New York) so I think if you were thinking of where to stay I'd say you would be pretty safe with any strip based hotel.

Our hotel from the helicopter
 On the first night, we were pretty jetlagged after flying in from Hawaii and knew we had an early start the next day so we just checked in and got changed for dinner. We ate in the Luxor at an amazing steak restaurant called Tenders. It was pretty expensive but such a good meal and service.

 In Vegas, you will find a lot of people try and take your photo and then charge you so be careful. The above photo was taken in Tenders by a friendly but pretty pushy woman who liked to give instructions on exactly how we should pose! When she was distracted we just took a photo of the photo and saved ourselves the $50 she was asking for!

Amazing dessert at Tenders
 The next day we had an early morning trip to the Grand Canyon planned. My mum and dad had kindly got this for us as a wedding present and I can't recommend it enough. You can drive out or go by helicopter - we opted for helicopter obviously! Not only is it only 45 minutes compared to several hours but the views are amazing as you fly over the canyon. We were picked up from our hotel by limo and taken to the airfield.

 We had a lovely female pilot who was so knowledgable and friendly. We flew over the hoover dam and alond the Colorado River. The helicopter landed down in the canyon and we were able to have lunch at the bottom!

 It was amazing being in the canyon. It was so silent all around and looking up to the top made you realise just how vast it was. Not only is it deep but flying over also gives you an idea of the sheer area it covers.


I would definitely recommend the early morning trip. It's not so hot and it's still a clear day with good views. Our pilot said it was the best time too. By the time we got back to the strip we still had the whole afternoon to make the most of.
On the gondola

We decided to walk down to the Venetian hotel and have a gondola ride. Having now done this, it is not something I would recommend to others. It's a rip off! The gondalier was not friendly and wouldn't take any photos (as they want you to buy theirs). You are basically just paddled round for about 10 minutes in a swimming pool. It's definitely not something I would want to do again!

However, the walk down the strip is always interesting as you pass some impressive hotels. It's worth waiting for the Bellagio fountains too. They come on about every 15 minutes and are so well choreographed to the music.

The shoot up so high it's unbelieavable, I bet it would be amazing to have a fountain view room at the Bellagio!

The fountains are even better at night when they are all lit up.

Opposite the Bellagio is Paris, a hotel which has a Paris theme surprisingly! You can even take a ride up the Eiffel Tower! If Paris isn't your thing you could check out New York New York and brave the rollercoaster that runs through the hotel and out through the roof. I so wanted to do this but just chickened out at the last minute!

As well as a shopping and general exploring, we also decided to go and see Chris Angel who had a residency at our hotel. He's known for being a dark magician and he certainly lived up to this. He was amazing and left you so confused as to how he had pulled off the stunts - as well as terrifying me when a giant bunny rabbit appeared in the audience!

If you are planning on going to Vegas, I'd check out groupon first as they have plenty of offers on 2-4-1 tickets or discounts on shows and events.

No trip to Vegas would be complete without the compulsory trek to the world famous Vegas sign. You have to go past the Luxor and all the way past Mandalay Bay to get there so it may be worth skipping the 25 minute walk (especially in the heat - and especially if you have a flight to catch that morning!) and get a $10 taxi to the sign. There's plenty of people to take each others photos, live streaming for your family at home to watch and probably someone dressed as Elvis lurking around!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Outfit Of The Day.

Once I got to 23 weeks, I had to face the tough reality that my jeans just weren't going to fasten comfortably. I could just about get them done up but not without some seriously deep lines on my hips and a risk of popping open if I sat down!

Now, I wear jeans all the time so this was a serious issue. My sister joked that I'd be in the maternity jeans with the giant waistband and now this was looking like a serious option.

However, I have managed to bypass the giant waist after discovering jeggings! I am really not a fan of the jeggings that have fake seams and pockets printed on but this pair from Topshop are really just stretchy jeans. They don't have buttons and are really leggings but the seams are genuine so they look a lot more like real jeans. I got this light wash and also a darker blue.

The top and shoes are both Next. The top is long enough to cover the bump although I am not sure it's got much more stretch in it!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Honeymoon - Oahu.

As I said in my last honeymoon post, we wanted to make sure we had a taste of an exoctic honeymoon but didn't want anything too tropical! We are both fussy eaters and get bored if there's nothing but a beach so the main island of Hawaii, Oahu seemed ideal.

Unlike the other islands, Oahu is pretty Americanised and commercial. For us, it had the perfect balance of beautiful beach with palm trees and sunsets and the American shops and restaurants. We were staying in an area called Waikiki and our hotel was right on the beach.

 Upon arrival at the airport, we were greeted by our shuttle service with a traditional Hawaiian lei garland - just like in the films! What a great start after the 5 hour flight from San Francisco!

We just chilled out on the first night as we didn't get to our hotel until 10pm. This meant we were up early the next day to go and explore.

The beach was so beautiful and the sea so clear. I was having a paddle at one point and somehow failed to notice a 6ft wild sealion heading straight for me! I caused much amusement as I made a poor attempt to run through water as fast as I could! The view above is of Diamond Head - a famous tourist spot in Waikiki. I believe they offer trekking tours to the top but I decided that was far too active!
The good thing about it being Americanised is the restaurants - how could I resist another Cheesecake Factory visit? And of course, there was only one thing I could order - a genuine Hawaiian pizza!
We wondered down to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort (an amazing looking hotel) and found a rep that helped us book some events. We had pre-booked Pearl Harbour before going but with 5 days to fill we wanted something else to keep us entertained. Kieran being the water lover, signed us up for parasailing and banana boating and I chose a Luau. Apparently, the Luaus in resorts are not very authentic so it is best to book one a little further out for a more genuine experience.

 The water activities involved being picked up pretty early and driven out of Waikiki. We then boarded the fastest, most scary speed 'dinghy' and were driven out to a bigger boat for the parasailing. The dinghy was bad enough so when I was sat aboard the bigger boat watching the first couple drift further and further into the air, I was terrified! The guys running it made sure they gave the couple a few dunks in the sea too!

We were attached to the sail on a pretty sturdy harness and then slowly released further and further up. In the end, we were 1000ft above the sea. The view was amazing and it was great fun - I'm so glad I did it! Being reeled back in was a bit scary as we had to make sure we hit the boat properly - we missed a few times and were soaked!

After the dinghy back to shore, Kieran was so seasick we had to give the banana boat a miss. I have to say I was mightily relieved as I did not want to do it at all!!!

 The Luau was much more my cup of tea! A traditional Hawaiian celebration! We did the one at Paradise Cove and I can't recommend it enough. We had a free cocktail on arrival and all of the entertainment was included in the ticket price. It is also set in the most beautiful surroundings. It was about half an hour from Waikiki but the lovely tour guide on the bus kept everyone entertained.

 As you can see, the views were amazing. I could see why a couple were getting married down on the beach!
 All of the entertainment and activities were included in the ticket price. We got traditional Hawaiian 'tattoos' (just painted on). Kieran shunned the male trend for something tribal and raised a few eyebrows with his blue flower!
 Here I am, attempting (and failing) to hit the target in some traditional Hawaiian spear throwing. There was also Hawaiian bowling, a local man climing a really tall palm tree completed unaided so he could shower everyone with petals, canoe rides around the cove and local crafts for sale.

 After all of the activities, everyone settled down for more cocktails and pig roast. There were hula girls and fire breathers providing the entertainment. It was so lovely to spend time in the cove at the sun set.
 Hawaii is known for its surfing and whilst we didn't sign up to a lesson, we did visit this lucky statue that surfers all come and pay their respects to.

We signed up for Pearl Harbour before we left and it meant a really early start! We were picked up at 6am to go and visit the historical site.

The tour was well worth it although it was really moving at times. We visited the battleship the USS Missouri and were able to wonder about it pretty freely. We then went over to the USS Arizona wreck where the memorial is.

It seemed so strange that such a battle could go on in such a beautiful place. On the way back, the driver took us on a tour of Honolulu which is the main city on the island. It was really nice to be able to see parts of Hawaii outside of the resort area.

Before we knew it, in between lounging on the beach or at the pool, late night shopping (most shops were open til midnight!) and eating plenty, it was time for our next destination... Las Vegas!

Outfit Of The Day.

As well as shift dress with no waist coming in handy, I'm also finding that bodycon dresses are actually good for something. I wouldn't normally wear one as they are so clingy but when you have a baby bump you can get away with it!

This stripy one is from Dorothy Perkins. I find stripes so helpful for disguising the bump - until I turn sidewards! Just goes to show the the horizontal stripe 'rule' is an old wives' tale!

I'm 23 weeks in these pictures...

As the dress was black and white stripes, I added some purple Miu Miu heels and a pink Mulberry Mitzy tote to brighten up the outfit. It is the most comfortable dress ever as it's stretchy jersey material and the longer sleeves are good when it's a bit breezy out!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Honeymoon - San Francisco.

I was just sitting here remembering that this time last year we had just returned from the most amazing honeymoon ever. Then I remembered that I never even blogged about it! Since we made three stops on our honeymoon, I thought I'd break the posts into three to save me going on for too long!

We both love America so knew this had to be the place for our honeymoon. We had been to New York, New Orleans, Miami and Vegas in the past so wanted to try some new places. We also wanted to make sure we experienced a bit of typical honeymoon paradise with somewhere exoctic. We used a company called The Internet Traveller and they helped us put together our ideal package:

San Francisco for 3 nights
Oahu for 6 nights
Vegas for 3 nights

We flew direct to San Francisco from Heathrow on the Monday after our Saturday wedding. I am so glad we didn't go on the Sunday as things would have just been too hectic! The flight was around 9 hours which is not ideal but we made the most of the inflight movies and got some sleep so we would be prepared to stay up when we arrived that afternoon in San Francisco.

We stayed at the amazing and friendly Argonaut Hotel on Fisherman's Wharf. The staff were amazing and upgraded us to a huge room when they realised we were on honeymoon. It was also the perfect location with a view of the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz from our shutter style windows.

The hotel is in a great location for the 5 minute walk down to Pier 39 where you'll find plenty of restaurants, including the Hard Rock Cafe (we try to visit one in every city!) You can also seal spot on the pier and have great views out across San Francisco Bay. Just up the road from the hotel is an In 'n' Out burger too - you need to experince this at least once!

We spent the first afternoon just exploring and settling in and got up early the next day for our tour of Alcatraz! We walked from our hotel down to the Alcatraz Landing tour stop (pre-book your tickets before you and get to the landing spot in plenty of time as queues can be long although they move quickly!).

The tour was so much and so well organised. We did a self guided tour with headsets which meant we could go at our own pace. It's not too busy and there is plenty of time to get the photos you want. It's really worth a visit to learn about the history of the island and it still has that eerie feeling to it! Not sure I'd be signing up for the night tours!!

We had great fun exploring the cells, learning about some of the notorious criminals and escape plots and admiring the views of San Francisco from the island. The tour is a great way to spend half a day.

That, we had booked a segway trip around Golden Gate park. This combined a way of seeing the vast park with the fun of trying segways for the first time! We took a taxi to the meeting point from our hotel for about $15.

Our tour guide was really knowledgable about the park and was able to share some funny stories rather than just the typical historical details. The segways were really straightforward to use once you got the hang of them (some took longer than others to get the hang of them!) We were on them for about an hour and had a great time exploring. It can feel pretty breezy when you are on board but the sun is shining so the gloves are a good idea - Kieran ended up with really sunburnt hands!

You can't visit America and not do some shopping and in San Francisco, the place to go was Union Square. This was a little while away from our hotel so we bought an on-off 24 hour tour bus ticket. This meant we could jump off at Union Square and get back on any time we liked. It would also be handy for a general site seeing tour later in the evening!

There are plenty of the typical American brands around Union Square such as Forever 21, Levis, Tiffanys, Macy's etc. More importantly, there is also a Cheesecake Factory - my fave place to eat in America!! It's on the top of Macy's so we had lunch on the balcony in the sunshine over looking the square.

 Sculpture in Union Sq.
 Kieran's fave shop
 View from Macy's roof of the square
Lunch on the roof
As the square is away from the bay, it's a lot warmer. Around the bay it can get really breezy (hence the investment in the tourist sweatshirts!)
That evening, we made the most of our bus tickets and took at evening tour of San Francisco. The tour went through China Town, the business district and past the painted lady Victorian houses you might recognise from Mrs. Doubtfire.
 Mrs. Doubtfire's house!
The highest point in San Francisco
Before we knew it, it was our last day in San Francisco. We bought an open top ticket for a tour of the Golden Gate bridge and the town of Sausalito - where I would move to right away if I had a spare $1million!
 Crossing the bridge
 On the other side
In Sausalito
I can definitely say that San Fran is one of my favourite ever places. It feels so laid back but there is still plenty to do. It has the sunshine and the shops without feeling crowded or rushed and it is such a pretty place. Highly recommended - I can't wait to go back!