London

I'm back from my trip to London and Paris! I'm starting my write up of all we saw and did. But whew boy is it a lot!! Here's the first part of our trip of three and half days in London.

             I started off my first international trip with six hour flight from Orlando to Reykjavik with Icelandair! I really enjoyed my flight on Icelandair, even though I was in economy class each seat had TVs and a USB port for charging. There was even a pretty awesome selection of free movies including Wonder Woman and Baby Driver. I watched part of Wonder Woman and then tried to sleep for a few hours. My flight was an overnight flight that left around 8pm. I arrived in Reykjavik around 3 am EST and I even got to see the faintest flicker of the Northern Lights on way into Iceland so that was pretty cool!

            I spent about 45 minutes in the Reykjavik airport which was kinda strange cause there were so few seats in and around the gates, but I just hung out on the floor for a little while before taking the shuttle back out to my new plane that would take me to London.

            I arrived at Gatwick around 1245pm local time and made it through customs and passport control with little fuss. I then bought myself a national express bus ticket to Heathrow as I was meeting my friend there after her flight arrived. I was so excited to see some fall leaves on my ride there since it had been about 80 degrees when I left Florida. I met up with my friend and we took the Heathrow Express train into London which was super easy. We then hopped on the Tube towards our hostel, which was fairly easy but a little hard to navigate with our big bags. Not to mention that because it was unseasonably warm for October I was of course sweating buckets. Not a good look.

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             We made it to our hostel mid afternoon and checked in. We ended up staying at the Wombat’s Hostel London. We booked two beds in a 6 bed female dorm. We were pleased with the room; it was on the main floor so no stairs needed. When we first checked in all the beds were occupied but by two days later it was just my friend and I and another girl left which was nice. Our room had a private shower and toilet room as well as separate sink, which was nice. The floor were wood and the room felt clean, the shower seemed to be cleaned daily. I’m sure hostel dorm rooms depend on your roommates but we got very lucky and had quiet, chill roommates.

            After dropping our bags and showering off almost 24 hours of traveling we headed out, walking to the Tower of London which was only about a 7 minute walk away. We walked along the Thames and over the Tower Bridge and then back along a super cute walkway along the river. There were tons of people out and we enjoyed all the sights and cute pubs and restaurants. We eventually ended up at a restaurant that as cute and kitschy inside. The food wasn’t bad but unfortunately our service was sort of terrible, it took over an hour for our food to get to us. We walked back by the Globe Theatre and talked about doing a tour of it. We headed back to the hostel and off to sleep soon after. 

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The Globe Theatre! 

           On Sunday we woke up early to get to the Columbia Road Flower Market because we were curious to see the market and I love anything to do with fresh flowers. We took our first spin on the double decker red buses, which was a bit of a bust because even with my citymapper app I found it pretty confusing of which bus to use and in which direction. It didn’t help that when we got on and I asked our bus driver if our stop was on there he said yes initially the said he actually wasn’t sure and tried to look at it on my app… didn’t inspire much confidence. Regardless we eventually got to the stop we wanted and made our way to the market. One bus experience was definitely enough and we didn’t venture back and instead stuck to the Tube.

            The Columbia Road Flower Market is on Sundays only from 8-3ish in East London. I read lots of things saying to arrive early though as the flowers go quickly. I was worried there wouldn’t be as many flowers in October but there were still tons and some truly gorgeous flowers I’d never seen before. One tip is to be cautious, as some stands don’t allow you to take photos or video of their flowers. I was sad we didn’t have anywhere to display flowers or a vase to put them in or I definitely would have bought some.

         We then walked to Beigel Bake for breakfast and had an amazing bagel and pastry! Careful as I believe they are cash only.

        After our bagels for breakfast we headed by tube to stop by and see Buckingham Palace. I managed to unwittingly get us there just in time for the daily changing of the guards. The crowds were so gigantic I actually thought the royal family might be appearing… but no apparently that was just a normal crowd day at Buckingham Palace. Regardless after pushing our way through way too many people we made our way to the other side and the green area near the park there which was gorgeous. We then walked to Harrod’s to check out the curious things they sell. We managed to get rather incredibly lost inside looking for things and kept walking in huge squares.

Our only glimpse of the actual "changing of the guard", taken in a walkway where you couldn't stop. 

            After a stop at a Café Nero for coffee we headed to the Science Museum, London for a bit. I enjoyed the exhibits a lot and there was a lot to look at for adults, not just children. We stopped in the Natural History Museum briefly then grabbed some Italian for dinner at Rocca. Next we stopped by Hatchards the oldest bookstore in London. I actually managed not to buy any books!

            We walked through St. James’ Park to Parliament Square and saw Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Funny story, we definitely took pictures in front of Westminster and somehow missed that that’s what it was, we thought it was a different smaller church so we went back a day later to see “Westminster Abbey” and discovered we’d actually already seen it! We walked by Big Ben which is under quite a bit of construction and Parliament. We went back out for dessert at Motown in Whitechapel that night and enjoyed some ice cream. 

Hatchard's and it's infamous five story staircase.

The Science Museum London

Inside the Natural History Museum 

             On Monday we headed to Breakfast Club for breakfast on my dad’s recommendation. It was tiny but we only waited probably fifteen minutes. After we headed to the British Museum and wandered there for a few hours. We had a ridiculous amount of fun making up funny snapchats for the different works of art, although I promise we were respectful. After we started to gloss over we walked to Chinatown to get a snack at Bubblewrap London. You should definitely try their egg waffles that you can fill with all sorts of sugar and toppings. Next we headed to Trafalgar Square and looked around the National Portrait Gallery briefly.

            After that we took the Tube to the Florence Nightingale Museum, which I was especially looking forward to as a nurse who learned about Flo in nursing school! We spent about two hours there, which was probably way more than my friend wanted to see. We came outside at 3pm to what appeared to be either a tornado or darkness falling. It was incredibly strange and after I texted my dad (the resident family weather man) to ask if the world was ending, he told me it was Hurricane Ophelia that was hitting Ireland. It had picked up dust and sand from the Sahara and had formed a giant orange cloud over London. It was disturbing and the only way I can describe the strange feeling was the way it looks before tornadoes in the US. I have no recollection of what we ate for dinner nor photo evidence… 

Bubblewrap London!

           On Tuesday we got up early to do laundry and grab Dum Dum Donuts in Bethnel Green. They are in a tiny shop there. The donuts are gorgeous but definitely on the heavy side. We also grabbed bagels again at Beigel Bake for snacks later. We tried to go to the Hunterian Museum but I belatedly realized they are closed until 2020 for and extensive renovation… so that was a bust. We hopped back on the tube, making a stop at King’s Cross Station to see the Harry Potter themed Platform 9 ¾. It was a bit underwhelming honestly, to someone who has visited Harry Potter at Universal. We were glad we didn’t go out of our ways to see it. We then made our way to Portobello Road Market to wander a bit in Notting Hill. We ate at a cute café called Gail’s for lunch.

             After we headed back to see Westminster Abbey although we then realized we’d already seen it. We debated paying to go inside but eventually decided it was a lot of money, we did stop in the gift shop though and picked up some super cute gifts. I have to say I think my favorite places that we bought souvenirs were strange places like museum gift shops and the stationery section at Harrod’s which had some amazing postcards!

         Next we headed to our prebooked time at the Sky Garden to see London from the 34th floor! You do need an advance ticket to visit the Sky Garden and you should arrive during your ticket’s time period. But it's free and you can stay as long as you like. There are also a couple of restaurants in the Sky Garden you can eat at. After a few photos there and a snack we headed to Oxford St to buy me some new sneakers (sidebar London and Paris are no joke, BRING GOOD SHOES) and to Selfridges to get a backpack I’d been eyeing since my carryon seemed in danger of breaking. We then hopped on the tube and headed towards Spitaelfields Market and ate some fish and chips at Poppies. It was a little underwhelming but I really felt like the food just needed better seasoning (how’s that for typical English fare for ya).

         The next morning we were booked on the Eurostar to Paris so we grabbed some breakfast and sprang for an Uber to the train station. The weather had been particularly strange and HOT, in the 60’s and 70’s and sunny every day we’d been there but the day we left it was rainy and much more what I would have imagined as typical London weather. 

            Overall I think my favorite part of London was the London Science Museum and the Florence Nightingale Museum. London is incredibly easy to navigate in my opinion, especially with an app like Citymapper. I found the Tube to be incredibly clean and well organized. We almost never waited more than a minute or two for a train to arrive and there were workers all around if you needed help. I felt very safe on all the trains and platforms. It was a nice change of pace after using the subway in New York the last year and half as the delays get longer and longer.

            London is expensive but we managed to get pretty lucky by eating at places where there were half price menus or other cheaper options like street food or cafes. Almost every museum we went to was free or very low cost which was awesome.

            The biggest downside I see with London is how similar it feels to the US. It feels like a big city anywhere. This is probably comforting to an American not wanting to venture too far outside of their comfort zone. I did enjoy the history of London though and how much older the building are obviously. Plus I love an English accent! I’m looking forward to returning to London but moreso to use it as a base for traveling to see the rest of England like Bath, Darcy’s House and the Harry Potter Studio tour which we didn’t have time to see this time. 

New York in May!

We headed back to New York for a few days at the beginning of May! The weather was oddly cold and rainy a few days but we had fun! I was just happy it wasn't 90 degrees like it was in Florida. 

The rain wasn't super fun and it actually flash flooded on that Friday we were there which was very odd and not very fun to be out in. Other than that the day we went to Central Park it was gorgeous! 

Guys, we got to eat cookie dough at Do!! And the first time we went we barely waited at all!! (We went back a second time on Sunday and we had to wait about 30 minutes). It is so yummy! It tastes exactly like raw cookie dough but without the raw eggs so you don't have to worry about getting salmonella! I had the Nuts for Nuts flavor and it was amazing!

We went back to The Lower East Side Tenement Museum again! We did the Irish Outsiders tour this time and man I love this museum! I think if I lived in NY I would try to figure out a way to work or volunteer there! 

We saw Cats the first night we got there which was amazing! I was really pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Cats. It has been updated with cool new hi-tech things and I loved the actress that played Grizabella! The worst part was how long we had Cats songs stuck in our heads... My cousin and I saw Anastasia one night too which I was very excited about but I was a little underwhelmed with actually. They made a lot of changes from the story in the movie and that made me sad. It also felt like they added about 10 new unnecessary songs. Ah well, the audience really seemed to love it. 

I introduced Rachael and Waldo to my favorite bagel place at Best Bagel and Coffee which I have deemed the best bagel I've ever had in my life! Every time we eat there I enjoy it so much. And we ate there 3 times during this trip.... Seriously, go grab a bagel there if you're in New York. 

Ah, New York. That grand dame of cities! Sitting here looking at these pictures I wish I was back there! I'll have to start planning another trip soon! 

EPCOT's International Food and Wine Festival!

It's Food and Wine time in Orlando!!! Well, it's almost over actually. But I didn't get to experience much of the fun until the last few weeks. I had actually never done Food and Wine before and I really enjoyed it! 

I've now been three times (with one more trip planned for the final weekend) and the results are in! 

Favorite drink: The Martini Slush from France (Runner up being the Szarlotka from Poland which I have no picture of!)

Favorite food: The Buttered Chicken with Naan from Africa! 

I also snuck in a picture of our pizzas from Via Napoli! OMG I love that place more and more every time I visit! 

What are your favorite things to eat and drink at Epcot's Food and Wine??

Moments from the last few months

Whew, it's been a long time!! 

I don't really have an excuse for not posting, other than we haven't been doing much and I've been staying inside lots because it's so darn hot outside! 

We have managed to make it to Disney a couple of times over the past few months now that we have our annual passes and we got Universal passes last week! 

Here are some moments from my phone from the past few months! 

Disney World!

We came back from Disney World back in April!! It was quite a busy trip. I've never spent 6 days in the parks in one trip so that was pretty tiring but we had a lot of fun! 

We took our entire family including all my sisters and niece and nephews for their first trip. We did all four parks and a couple of Disney DIning experiences we had never done before. 

We miraculously ended up planning our trip around the Spring Dapper Day event and I was overjoyed!! I have been trying to get to a Dapper Day event since I heard about them a few years ago. It was so much fun to be there and see everybody dressed to the nines! I also really enjoyed watching the confused looks on the other park goers' faces! 

I also heard a middle aged women explaining to her friends that this was called DISNEYBOUNDING. Which, some people were disneybounding but most of us were just dressed up for Dapper Day. It was great! I highly recommend it if you love vintage or retro style. 

We went on Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing one morning when there was Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom and we saw more animals than I've ever seen on the safari! We saw a couple of elephants and the male lion as well as tons of other animals. 

The Teacups happened to be pretty much all of the kids favorite rides which was fine by me because I love theming and the color of the teacups! 

We were there for the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot which was gorgeous! 

We got to meet Baymax at Epcot which was especially awesome for Rachael and I because we are a little obsessed with Big Hero 6, especially Baymax. 

I fell in love with the snapchat filters from all over Disney. Especially this one, I mean c'mon I'm OBVIOUSLY very hot & juicy. 

We watched Wishes a couple of times throughout the week but this was on Monday, on my birthday! Not a bad way to end your birthday!

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Hollywood Studios general aesthetic is basically my favorite. I hate that the Streets of America (cough, half the park, cough) is closed though! 

The World Showcase at Epcot is always one of my favorites and sadly we didn't get a ton of time to explore it. But we did walk through a few of the pavilions. 

We did wander around Morocco though and I had Rachael take this photo of me which I absolutely love. 

I also wandered up the train station steps to take photos of the castle and stumbled upon Mary Poppins just hanging out with only one or two people around her. 

All in all it was a great trip and there was still so much we didn't get done that we had wanted to. But I'm sure there will be more trips in the future. 

I have another post coming up about all the awesome food we ate and the dining reservations we had. 

What's your favorite part of Disney World?? 

Our Cruise!

Back in December Rachael and I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with a few of our friends. It was so nice to escape the gloomy winter weather for the tropical Caribbean! We went on the Six Day Western Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale that went to Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Haiti. This was our first cruise and I really had no idea what to expect to be honest!

I found this couch in one of the lounges and I really want one installed in my future house! 

Sunrise the morning we arrived in Grand Cayman. 

 7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman and not our cruise ship in the background. 

Buster, our towel puppy!

Jamaican kids waiting on the school bus. 

Jamaica!

Jamaica was definitely my favorite out of the three ports we visited. We decided to pay for the RC excursion for the catamaran cruise and snorkeling. We also took a 45 minute bus ride from Falmouth to Montego Bay which I enjoyed because we got to see a little bit of actual Jamaica (not the weird Disney-fied Jamaica that is the Falmouth port). 

Snorkeling in Jamaica. Ugh, so gorgeous. 

Labadee, Haiti

Our private beach bed in Labadee. We split it between all 6 of us, so worth the money! 

We decided the night before we got to Haiti that we were going to rent one of the beach beds. If i recall correctly it was about $175 but you can split it between up to six people, which made it super reasonable! It comes with two floating mats to use in the water and a butler. Plus a bottle of evian for everyone which was nice! It was nice to have a butler because your RC drink packages work in Labadee, so you could order from the butler and have soft drinks and alcoholic drinks delivered right to your beach bed! 

Overall, I'm not sure if the cruise life is for me. Although I definitely enjoyed being able to go to three different ports in three days. The days on the ship though definitely felt like way too many people in a small space (although the ship was really huge). The food was alternatively so-so and pretty good depending on the dish. 

The entertainment on the ship was okay to pretty funny. The love and marriage show (like the Newlywed Game) being the best. There was never a lack of options for scheduled activities if you are in to things like that. I might have also enjoyed it more if we had had better weather on our at sea days so that we could actually lay out. It was alternately cloudy or drizzly for most of them. 

I know some people absolutely love cruises and while I might do another one, specifically a Mediterranean or Hawaiian one, I think there are other ways I'd rather spend my money traveling. That said, we did get a fantastic deal on this cruise that we will probably NEVER beat (BOGO and no port fees). 

Have you been a cruise? Where did you go? Any cruises you're dying to go on? 

We're going to Disney World!

Guess what!?! We're going to Disney World in less than a month!!! I'm so excited! Disney World is kind of one my favorite places ever! It's also the first time we're taking my entire family including my niece and nephews for the first time! It's going to be crazy and hopefully amazing. So I'm sure I'll have lots of photos and video to post once we get back. 

In the mean time I wanted to post a few photos from previous trips to Disney, including a couple of hilarious ones from when we were little! 

My friend Meagan and I in Disney in 2005. This would be the trip we pretended we were twins (which we kinda did a lot) and told everyone it was our birthday. Both false, clearly. 

Rachael and I sometime around 1999? Maybe. Also that horse on the right is killing me. 

Kayla, Rachael and I there around 2010. 

What should have been our family photo this year. 2001?? 

Also, what is now my favorite photo of myself at DIsney that i've found! Just walking casually down Main Street with my Lisa Frank autograph book! And the castle was my favorite way it ever looked! 

We're doing a lot more dining reservations than we've ever done before so that should be interesting. We're trying out some new places like Chef Mickeys and Via Napoli as well as an old favorite, The Whispering Canyon Cafe! 

We also have all of our fast passes planned out so our days are pretty much planned. I'm super excited and can't wait to share a trip report when we get back! 

Have you been to Disney World? What's your favorite ride and food to eat??

Tampa Bay Area

Next up in our Exploring the Sunshine State Series! I went to the Tampa Bay Area at the end of October!! And I'm just getting around to finishing this post in February!! 

We stayed in a two bedroom condo at Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites on Treasure Island that was right on the Gulf of Mexico which was very nice! It had a pool and hot tub as well as a kids pool, too. 

The view from Bongos on St. Pete Beach

Above was the view from dinner one night when we headed down to St. Pete Beach to eat at Bongos Beach Cafe. We ate beachside and the sky put on a great show! The restaurant is around the back of the hotel, on the beach. 

Downtown St. Pete

One of our first days we wandered around downtown St. Petersburg which is super cute and pretty pedestrian friendly. There are a fair amount of shops and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. 

We ate brunch one morning at Clear Sky Cafe on Clearwater Beach and I got this excellent waffle! We didn't actually spend any time on the beach at Clearwater Beach, but there is a pier there you can walk on and beach access as well as some beach shops and restaurants. 

Downtown St. Pete art murals

Ybor City!! I was not hipster enough...

We took a walk around Ybor City one afternoon and stopped in the most amazing vintage shop called La France. I wanted to buy everything in there and also move in. Oh to have unlimited money. 

Treasure Island beach

University of Tampa

Downtown Tampa

Downtown Clearwater architecture

When I started researching food for our trip to the Tampa Bay area of course I had to include some doughnut places!! Here are our doughnuts and cronuts from St. Pete Bagel Co. I had a really awesome blueberry bagel from them too! I love a good bagel. Almost as much as I love a good doughnut. The cronuts were really lovely as well! This was my first time eating a cronut, so i will definitely have to try again somewhere else to compare!! 

Overall, we spent a lot of our time in Tampa at the beach and laying by the pool which was very lovely and relaxing! The weather was gorgeous in October, in the 80's most days. We also spent a fair amount of time in the car driving around the Tampa Bay area exploring all the different towns and cities like St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, Treasure Island, Largo, etc, etc. 

 

Apple Pie Cookies

Here's a great recipe for Apple Pie Cookies just in time for Thanksgiving!!

Apple Pie Cookies

These require some work but they have all the deliciousness of pie in a portable form. We recommend serving warm with vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

CRUST

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 cup water, very cold

 

FILLING

3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with

Squeeze of lemon juice

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Boiled Cider (for cup form of cookie)

FOR ASSEMBLY

1 large egg

Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish

Baking sheets Lined with parchment paper

Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)

Round cookie cutter or cup.

Directions:

Make the pie dough: 

- Whisk together flour, sugar and salt.

- Using a food processorchop the butter into smaller pieces then add the flour mixture, working the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas.

- Move mixture back into large bowl and gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a ragged mass forms.

- Knead mixture two or three times to form a ball.  
- Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Prep other ingredients:

- Line up six small dishes.

- In the first one, pour some water.

- Leave the second one empty; it will be used for apples.

- In the third one, mix the sugar and cinnamon.

- In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping.

- In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

- In the last one, or in whatever container you keep it in, add some coarse or regular sugar for decorating the tops of the pies.

 Once crust is chilled:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Roll out your pie dough pretty thin, ~1/8-inch thick, on a well floured surface. One disk at a time

- Ensure that it rolls out evenly and be sure its not sticking in any place. - Using the cookie cutter or cup to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough.

- Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them.

Prepare apples:

- Peel apples and cut then into thin slices

- Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if theyre browning quickly.

Assembly:

Hand Pie (double crust)

- Lightly dampen one one side of a crust round with the water, to help it seal.

- Toss a few pieces of apple in the cinnamon sugar.

- Place sugared apples on the damp side of the bottom disk.

- Place a second disc of dough on top

- Seal the disks by pressing the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers.

- Cut decorative slits in your pies.

- Dip a fork in flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges.

- Brush assembled cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

- Place on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Cup (using oiled muffin tin)

- Place crust round in bottom of muffin tin, creating a cup

- Toss enough apples to fill cup in cinnamon sugar

- Place sugared apples into cup of pie crust

- Drizzle with 1 tsp boiled cider

 Bake:

- Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like.

- Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating

Alternatively, we also made a few in muffin tins to make them look more like little apple pies. All of them were amazing!! 

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Labor Day Weekend on the Gulf Coast

Kayla, Rachael, and I headed to Gulf Breeze for Labor Day weekend. It was so nice to spend some time at the beach since we hadn't been since May!

We ate at Sidelines, Peg Leg Pete's and Cactus Flower but sadly I have no pictures of it because I really fell down on the picture taking this trip. I do have a ridiculous amount of snapchats though.. 

We went out on Kayla's mom's new boat! 

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A pirate ship?? And we look naked.. 

Reenacting Titanic