North America

    Riviera Maya: Not So Relaxing

    This post is somewhat overdue given that we returned from Mexico on 3rd October 2018 and today’s date is 11th January 2019! The reason for the delay is because the last quarter of 2018 was one hectic period to say the least. The list of things we’ve had to deal with seems never ending; house break-in, car stolen, almost losing our house buyers, transferring to a new employer, buying a new car, packing up a 5 bedroom house, putting everything into storage, leaving our home of 8 years, staying in temporary accommodation for 5 weeks, moving into our new home, unpacking, DIY disasters, buying new stuff, snagging a myriad of problems, giving a home to a new puppy, Xmas/New Year illness and the final configuration and testing of a new computer system at work…did I forget anything?

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    Boston Weekender

    This was our first visit to Boston and I have to say we were very impressed. We used our air miles to supplement the cost of the trip and booked 3 nights at the Boston Park Plaza hotel. People constantly tell us that we are mad travelling long-haul for anything less than 2 weeks, so you can only imagine what we hear when we say we are heading away for only a few nights!

    The hotel was in a good location, just off Arlington Street and South of Boston Public Garden, a large park area. It was not in the heart of the tourist area, but near enough to make everything accessible. The standard of accommodation was excellent, which you come to expect when visiting the States. After getting checked-in and dropping off our bags we ventured out to explore the local area. It was already 7pm, so we weren’t planning on going too far.

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    Halloween in Orlando

    Florida, and particularly Orlando, is always a fun trip and our 2017 version was no different…well, unless you were those unfortunates at a Kissimmee bus stop, but more on that later! Amanda and I were joined on this trip by the wider family; Andy, Harry, Chloe and Ryan. This meant renting a Ford Grand Caravan minivan for the week to ferry us all around. These minivans have automation galore and a big powerful engine that allows you to pull off some great wheel spins. Our base of operations this time was at the second Club La Costa resort to open in Kissimmee, called Regal Oaks. It was pretty much the same as the Encantada resort, with the same three-bedroom town houses, but with a better bar/restaurant in the clubhouse.

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    Once Is Never Enough

    If you fancy a few days away, with warm weather and a mix of chilled activities, party options, good food, drinks a plenty and a fabulous atmosphere, where is your favourite place? How about somewhere in the UK? No, the weather is far too unpredictable and only truly warm on a few days each year. How about Europe? There are some good places to visit, but there are the language and culture differences to contend with, plus the weather is pleasant rather than consistently warm. How about Cancun, Mexico? Getting warmer and this is certainly a location that ticks most of the boxes. However, there is a standout winner and that has to be Las Vegas, Nevada, USA! It is a crazy, vibrant, 24/7 city that has so much more to offer than dropping coins into a slot machine all day (you can do this in Cleethorpes if that’s all you want).

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    USA Road Trip: Chapter V - Florida Keys

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    We stayed overnight at the Pullman hotel by the airport for ease and used their complimentary shuttle service to return on Tuesday morning to collect the rental car. This time we plumped for a SUV and were given a Dodge Journey...not a patch on the Mustang, but a comfortable and steady cruiser.

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    USA Road Trip: Chapter IV - Las Vegas

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    If you read our previous blog post about Las Vegas (Nov. 2015), you will know we never made it to our wedding anniversary meal due to the after effects of an all-night poker and drinking session. So, on this visit we had to rectify that and go visit the restaurant we had booked 5 months ago, or as Amanda put it, "we're celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary 7 months early".

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    USA Road Trip: Chapter III - Los Angeles

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    We woke up alive and unharmed in Santa Monica...result!

    We checked out and headed down the street to Starbucks, avoided the homeless beggars, had a bagel and walked back to the car with hot coffee. The first destination today was Griffith Observatory to park the car and walk up Mount Hollywood to get a good photo of the iconic Hollywood sign. Once our mission had been achieved we looked around the observatory, grabbed a sandwich and drove back down the hill through Griffith Park.

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    USA Road Trip: Chapter II - Highway 1

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    Chapter II of our adventure is about us driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles along the iconic Highway 1 for a lot of the journey. We were up and about early, not because we were still time zone adjusting, more like excitement. As we walked down Powell Street for the final time, on the way to Alamo to pick up our rental car, we stopped off at Lori's Diner for breakfast.

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    USA Road Trip: Chapter I - San Francisco

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    We arrived at San Francisco International Airport following an 11 hour flight, which was made so much easier by flying in Premium Economy. The flight was delayed by an hour, which meant we cleared customs and baggage collection by 5pm local time. As is now becoming tradition, we opted for public transport to get to our hotel. The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train cost us 9 bucks each and was so easy to figure out and use.

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    Birthday Trip Bucket List

    Road-Trip-USANow that Christmas 2015 is out of the way, our thoughts turn to our big birthdays in 2016 and our 3-week tour of the US. Only the first 3 nights are booked, with us winging the rest of the trip before jetting off to Jamaica for the final 5 nights.

    We need a bucket list of potential things to do, see and enjoy. Here is our starter for ten...

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    Vegas: Monday Night - Tuesday Morning

    Las Vegas #05After our day out in the Nevada and Arizona Mojave Desert, we dropped the hire car off at McCarran Airport and got a cab back to the Strip. As Chris and Jen had missed our earlier visit to the Nine Fine Irishmen bar, we hopped out of the cab at the New York New York Hotel & Casino and headed in for a few pints of Guinness. The second watering hole we visited was the Hard Rock Café, not for food, just for cocktails. My favourite cocktail is a Bloody Mary and I rank the mixologist by whether they ask me “how spicy?” and then by how good they make it. The first one at HRC was not as spicy as I like, so we suggested adding some Sriracha sauce for number two and I had to ask for a larger dose in number three! We headed back up the Strip and stopped off for a burger at Bobby’s Burger Palace, which was hosting a wedding reception…only in Vegas! Then we popped over to a bar area outside Chili's Grill & Bar for a swift one before hitting The Mirage for some gambling.

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    Vegas Revisited: Beer, Craps & Poker

    Las Vegas #31Our trip to Las Vegas was arranged to coincide with our wedding anniversary, which is on the 10th November. We were married at the Chapel of the Flowers, Las Vegas, in 2012. Again, this was an intentional date, as it makes remembering it very easy as it is 10/11/12 in the day-month-year date format we use in the UK. During this first visit to Sin City, 3 years ago, the focus was purely on the wedding and all the organisational matters leading up to the actual day, such as obtaining the marriage licence from Clark County Marriage Bureau.  On the way home, as a happily married couple, having enjoyed the whole experience, we realised we had not done Vegas properly in terms of drinking, partying and gambling…that was rectified this time around!

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    New York - Day 4

    New York #37Even though this was our last day in the Big Apple before flying home, our flight wasn't until late evening, so we had almost a full day to do some final exploring.  We started the day by grabbing breakfast in the Park Cafe beneath the hotel.  It was okay and set us up for the day, but don't rush there on our recommendation.  The first port of call was Central Park, with the challenge to ride bicycles around the entire perimeter.  We toyed with two options; one of the street vendors advertising bike hire or returning to our trusty Citi Bikes option.  We plumped for the latter as it offered us the additional option of picking up another pair of bikes to get down to the Hudson River for our second stop of the day.

    Heading into the park on our bikes, we had no idea of the route, the distance or what to expect. Well, the route is anticlockwise and one-way, with lanes marked out for joggers, cyclists and walkers. On a Sunday morning in New York it resembled the M1 southbound around Nottingham on a Monday morning!

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    New York - Day 3

    New York #24Day 3 was family day. My brother Michael, his wife Brooke and their three daughters (Autumn, Amber and Abigail) live in Connecticut, a couple of hours North of New York. They'd agreed to meet us for a day, which given the short notice of our trip was great. They planned to drive to Stamford, get booked into a hotel and jump on a train to Grand Central Station, meeting us around 11:30am.

    So, to start the day we wandered down 7th Avenue, grabbed a deli breakfast and had a recce of Central Park. As we had time left on our Citi Bikes hire period, the plan was to ride around Central Park, but we couldn't find a bike station at the South entrance. We abandoned that plan in favour of doing it with less time pressures on our last day.

    We walked down to Grand Central Station, took some photos and talked to an Apple assistant about the iPhone 6s, before venturing outside to grab a drink at Starbucks. Hooking up to their WiFi, we traded messages with Brooke only to find out they'd got on a train in the wrong direction and would be later than planned. What to do now?

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    New York - Day 2

    New York #15The plan for day 2 in NYC was to hit Brooklyn and hit it hard. This was to be our bar crawl day. We'd been to Brooklyn Heights during our last trip to New York and, although we were only there a few hours, we loved it and agreed there and then to return for a longer visit. In addition, we love the range of beers produced by Brooklyn Brewery. They are really getting a foothold in the UK these days and the quality is always great.

    We jumped on subway F down to York Street and the plan was to head over to Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The first mishap of the day turned out to be brilliant! I took us in completely the opposite (wrong) direction to what we'd planned, but found the most amazing trio of street food trucks. We ordered drunken noodles from the Thai truck and fried calamari from the Italian truck. After the wait, we wandered down Jay Street, in the direction on the East River, in hope of finding a bench, a view or ideally both. WOW, we hit the jackpot on all counts.

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    New York - Day 1

    New York #03The decision to head to New York for a few days was very last minute. We'd talked about it in principle if Amanda was given 'garden leave' after tendering her resignation, but it was only booked 4 days before we left home.

    We tend to book an overnight stay close to the airport the night before we fly to avoid early morning starts and the potential for traffic issues. However, on this occasion the only hotels close to Manchester Airport, that had availability, were looking for £200+ for one night including parking. We therefore decided to book 'meet & greet' parking and drive over to Manchester Airport the morning of the flight...never again! It's roughly 90 miles door-to-door, with a choice of three main routes, but all involved driving around Manchester during rush hour. We left at 6:30am expecting to arrive at 8:30am, allowing for traffic, but it was almost 9:15am by the time we handed the car keys over to a very grumpy parking valet.

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    Planning Our Trip

    Road-Trip-USAAs prep for our world travel we have booked a three week road trip around America next year. I really can't wait, we love the usa and we plan to go to places we have never been before.

    The challenge for us is not to book everything in advance and it's harder than you think. We have only booked our flights and our first couple of nights hotel. The benefit is we are flying into one part of the country and coming home from Jamaica. We have no choice but to travel across the country otherwise we won't be coming back.

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    Where Do We Begin?

    MadeiraSo, we've decided to create a travel blog to record our adventures from August 2015 onwards. However, what about all the places we've visited before today? Well, rather than spending too much time trying to recall these trips and the stories behind them, I thought I'd just make a list of the countries we've visited as a couple since our very first trip together. We started off with a long weekend in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, nicknamed "The City of a Hundred Spires". Our most recent adventure, well holiday really, was to Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico. This was to celebrate my step-daughter Chloe's 18th birthday in July.

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Countries Visited…