Alphabet Dating - I is for Italy

Alphabet Dating – I is for Italy

November was the month for our letter ‘I’ alphabet date. November was also the month of my Dad’s 60th birthday, where we decided to surprise him by taking him to Rome for 4 nights with my mum.

So Alphabet Dating letter ‘I’ became ‘I for Italy’, slight cheat but hey ho, when in Rome (see what I did there?).

I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for 10 years but things went pretty smoothly, infact I think they were glad of our company as my husband became Human Sat Nav and I became Event Co-ordinator.

When in Rome

We visited all the typical tourist attractions – Vatican City, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum etc. Plus I tricked my Dad into visiting an amazing Cat Sanctuary in the ruins (more about that coming soon!).

The joke of our trip occurred on our last day when my mum suggested that after lunch we head to Piazza Navona, which for the fact geeks out there was built over the 1st Century AD Stadio di Domiziano and hosted the city’s main market.

According to Lonely Planet it is nowadays “Central Rome’s elegant showcase square”.

According to my mum “There’s nothing there, but it’s all going on”.

Lonely Planet call it "Central Rome's elegant showcase square". My mum says "There's nothing there, but it's all going on". Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy. #Inspiring #Travel #Quote

When we got to Piazza Navona however, we realised that it really WAS all going on. There were cameras rigged up, important looking people busying about, crowds of gawkers and part of the square had been cordoned off. We later found out, through the brilliance of twitter, that they were filming a Hollywood movie that day! The film is called American Assassin and stars Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. And if you see a girl in a yellow coat hovering about in the background, then that will be yours truly!

Making a movie in Rome

The filming of 'American Assassin' in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

We had a wonderful time in Rome, sadly it was too cold to eat as much gelato as I might have liked but otherwise November was a good time to visit as the crowds were alot less (we queued for 30 minutes to get into the Vatican unlike the 3 hours we could have spent if we had gone earlier in the year).

Stay tuned for more Rome posts coming soon and keep an eye on my instagram for a few of my pics!

Arrivederci Roma!

Milford Sound – is it worth it?

aka My Worst Day at New Zealand’s Number 1 Attraction

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
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Milford Sound – is it worth it? It’s often touted as New Zealand’s number 1 must visit attraction, but is it worth the hype?

That greatly depends. Many people come back from there with wonderful experiences having spotted seals, dolphins and penguins as they’ve glided their way on a beautiful boat through the majestic waters. I, however, want to tell you about my visit to Milford Sound, because well, I’m all about keeping it real and sharing what the likes of Lonely Planet probably won’t tell you…

Milford Sound - is it worth it?
Milford Sound – image not my own unfortunately. Image via Unsplash.

Although we had hired a car in New Zealand, neither of us really fancied driving the lengthy journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, so we booked an organised coach tour. There are plenty of operators based in Queenstown but we chose to go with Jucy.

Our driver Lucy (you can’t make this up!) picked us up in the morning and remained bright and friendly throughout our trip. She told us all stories of her childhood on a farm and made several rest stops on route. Sadly for us, the weather was not being kind and even though we’re British and quite used to the rain, the more than damp weather was dampening our spirits the closer we got to Milford Sound.

After a long journey, we made it to the boat where the rain was still pouring and the wind was blowing a gale. The crew on board could obviously sense our coach load of disappointment as they tried to remain enthusiastic and marvelled at the many waterfalls spilling down the rocks because of the torrential downpour. I don’t know if they were genuinely that excited about the waterfalls or if they were just putting a positive spin on things in order to lift our spirits.

Many waterfalls can be seen at Milford Sound when it rains
Expect to see all the waterfalls when it rains

We received lunch on board the boat – wraps, cookies and drinks. I chose a falafel wrap and shortly afterwards found myself in the toilets with an upset stomach.

Needless to say, the rest of my Milford Sound experience was spent locked in a cubicle. But I didn’t miss much as hubby didn’t see any wildlife or rainbows beyond the drizzle and clouds, but he did venture out on deck to battle the elements. Sure, you could say it’s dramatic and atmospheric but when you’ve got food poisoning and you’re having panic attacks about spending another 5 hours stuck on a coach, who really cares?

What the travel guides DON'T show you about Milford Sound
* sigh *

The 90 minute boat ride was soon over and everyone was pretty keen to just get back to Queenstown. Lucy from Jucy had to ask another couple (who had prime location seats at the front of the coach) to switch with us so I could be at the front of the coach incase I needed to ‘go’ again. I would have felt guilty and mortified had all my energy not been focussed on making it through the next 5 or so hours. The trouble with New Zealand is that rest stops are few and far between but fortunately having dosed myself up with the necessary medication, I made it back to Queenstown just fine.

And thus concludes the worst day I had in my whole backpacking trip down under.

Milford Sound in bad weather
Image taken by my hubby ūüôā

So, is it worth it?

In my opinion, no. Perhaps if we’d driven ourselves and stopped in Te Anau for a night maybe? But I feel it is my duty to present the less glossy, sunny and perfect side to travel.

There are two sides to every story of course, so if you want to read a good experience of Milford Sound then I’m sure there are a bazillion other travel bloggers out there who will gladly share that.

Milford Sound in New Zealand
Here’s what we *could* have seen. Image via Pixabay

Have you been to Milford Sound? What did you think? Or have you had Travellers Tummy at the worst moment? Share, we’re all friends here!


You can find some of my more pleasant New Zealand adventures right here.

Cuba Beyond the Beaches and Havana

Cuban Crocodiles, Sugar and Steam Trains

We decided that it would be nice to see a bit more of Cuba without venturing too far from Varadero, and so we booked a tour to see a sugar mill with steam trains, as well as a crocodile farm and a replica indigenous village on the Zapata Peninsula.

Is this Cuba? It certainly is!
Zapata Peninsula

I’m sure the more intrepid of travel bloggers would have hitch-hiked their way there, but bugger that! I went for the easy and comfortable option of an air conditioned mini bus! The heat and humidity are almost unbearable if you are away from air conditioning or a swimming pool for too long.

Steam train at a sugar mill in Cuba
Ride a steam train at the sugar mill

The first step was the sugar mill museum where we learnt how sugar is produced and then tasted some sugar cane juice. It tasted very sweet (as you would imagine) but also had a ‘rooty’ kind of taste I can’t describe. Afterwards we took a little ride on one of the several steam trains they had there.

Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba for something beyond the beaches and Havana
Take a tour of a sugar mill in Cuba

Next step was the crocodile farm in Boca de Guama where we got to see the famous Cuban crocodile, from teeny babies to giant beasts. The Cuban crocodile can grow up to a whopping 5 metres in length although the ones we saw weren’t quite as big as this.

Famous Cuban Crocodiles
Cuban crocodiles!

We also got to see a few more of Cuba’s famous animals – iguanas, turtles and jutia, an endangered mammal that reminded me alot of the quokkas on Rottnest Island in Australia.

Jutia - large rodent of Cuba
Jutia

After lunch at a Paladar (private restaurant), we headed back to where the crocodile farm was situated to catch a boat across Laguna del Tesoro (Treasure Lagoon). The lagoon was named for the gold that the Taino (aboriginals) supposedly hid in its waters. The boat ride took around 20 minutes and was a joy to feel the wind in my hair!

Boat ride on the Treasure Lagoon in the Zapata Peninsula
Treasure Lagoon

When we arrived we could walk around a replica Taino village, where people can actually stay although to be honest, besides a bar and a couple of gift shops, there’s not alot else there.

Once we’d got the boat back across the lagoon we headed back to Varadero (which took just over an hour and a half) and jumped straight into the hotel pool!

Replica Taino Village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village
Replica Taino village in Cuba
Replica Taino Village

I would love to have seen a bit more of Cuba’s native creatures (flamingos live in the Zapata Peninsula although we didn’t get to see them) but I enjoyed my day of seeing a bit more of Cuba beyond the beaches.

Liked this? How about 24 hours in Havana?

Spotting quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

If you’ve never seen a quokka before, google “the world’s happiest animal” and you’ll see image after image of an adorable furry little creature that appears to be smiling. That, my friends, is a quokka and they live wild on Rottnest Island off of the coast of Western Australia.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island Australia

When I returned to Australia I knew I had to pay a visit to Rottnest Island and it turned out to be one of the best days!

We were staying in an Airbnb in the lovely town of Fremantle, which was where we caught the ferry from. The ferry journey took around 25 minutes before we reached the blissful shores of Rottnest.

Beautiful beach of Rottnest Island in Western Australia

Beautiful Rottnest Island - catch the ferry from Fremantle and enjoy a day with the quokkas!

At the port, we collected the bikes we had hired as this is pretty much the only way to travel around the island as cars are not permitted and it is too large to navigate by foot. However, there is a bus service but where’s the freedom in that?!

We picked up a map and set off on one of the bike trails. We only covered a small section of the island but still managed to cycle about 10km!

The best way to get around Rottnest Island! Hire a bike and explore this beautiful part of Western Australia.

The beaches are stunningly beautiful here, with white sand and turquoise sea, so be sure to take a break from cycling to enjoy them. It was a little while before we spotted any quokkas but when we did, we tried to get ourselves an obligatory ‘quokka selfie’ (yes that’s a thing).¬†After initially worrying that we wouldn’t find any quokkas, we ended up seeing loads¬†of them all around the island.

Quokka selfie

Quokka selfie

The quokkas face no natural predators on the island so they aren’t particularly fearful of anything. They actually see humans as a source of food which is bad because you aren’t supposed to feed the quokkas.

Once we’d cycled a loop, admiring the views and the wildlife along the way, we headed to Aristos Waterfront Restaurant for some well earned fish and chips which were delicious!

Rules of Rottnest Island

  1. Don’t feed the quokkas

  2. Don’t touch the quokkas

  3. Be careful – in one quokka encounter, I ended up shoving¬†a man in the leg because a throng of over excited tourists had showed up and he wasn’t looking where he was going and stepped backwards onto a poor little quokka’s tail! I’m a wildlife warrior, me.

  4. When cycling, ensure you are wearing your helmet. They are compulsory by law in Western Australia.

  5. Respect the island – take your rubbish with you and stay on the designated paths.

Quokkas having a nose in our bag
Watch your bags – those quokkas aren’t shy!

Top Tips

  1. Take plenty of water and snacks as once you leave the main harbour there isn’t really anywhere else to grab refreshments.

  2. Take sunscreen/hat/sunglasses etc as it is hot out there and not particularly shaded.

  3. If you’re only in Western Australia for a short amount of time I would recommend booking your place on the ferry in advance. We booked ours before we left the UK and the package included bike hire. We also went on a Tuesday as we found that this was the cheapest day to go.

  4. Take a watch with you to ensure you don’t miss your ferry slot back!

We had booked the last ferry back so once we’d explored a little more, we spent some time chilling on one of the beaches before having a drink at Quokka Joe’s cafe. I was pretty jealous of the people who were staying overnight on the island but I was also incredibly satified at what a wonderful day we had had.

Adorable quokka - a native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia

A girl's guide to The Maldives

A girl’s guide to… The Maldives

If you’re jetting off to the Maldives, chances are you are travelling with your significant other and are either

a) Newly weds on honeymoon
b) Happily married and celebrating a special anniversary
c) filthy rich and head to the Maldives every year, darling!

When I stayed on these beautiful islands, I fell into camp A (although secretly I want to be in camp C!) and must admit that the Maldives always seemed like one of those magical places that was so much of a perfect paradise that it was unattainable for a normal girl like me.

Not so. Here is a girl’s guide to this tropical heaven…

Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives

Before you go

Go and speak to a few travel agents and ask them to price up some options for you. Different islands cater for different budgets, although this is no budget holiday. We stayed on Kuramathi Island Resort, which is one of the larger islands, and as we found, less expensive (well, less expensive for the Maldives anyway).

You will also want to discuss the type of accommodation you wish to stay in – beach villa? overwater bungalow? garden villa? Staying in an overwater bungalow was something on my Bucket List but not an affordable option for our entire stay, so we booked an overwater bungalow for our first night and then stayed in a beach villa for the remaining duration of our holiday. We were lucky to have the best of both worlds although our friends who went to Kuramathi after us said that this isn’t an option anymore, but perhaps one of the other islands offers it? Go do your research!

Water bungalow on Kuramathi island in the Maldives

What to pack

  • Leave your heels at home! A pair of flipflops for daytime is all you need (and perhaps some pretty sandals for evening) but trust me, you’ll be barefoot in the sand for most of your stay.
  • Bikinis, sarongs, shorts, vests, light summer dresses. You may need to cover up if you leave your island to mingle with the locals but otherwise beachwear is fine.
  • Bring your own toiletries and suncream – to buy on the island is more expensive.
  • Take U.S. dollars. We were told that our island only really dealt with American dollars, but again, if you leave your island you may need to take some Maldivian Rufiyaa with you.

Sunset in the Maldives

Things to remember

  • While we had petals on the bed and a lovely card from our rep, don’t expect constant special treatment just because you are on honeymoon – so is everyone else. Sorry to burst your confetti-filled bubble there!
  • If you use up any toiletries while on holiday, please please take the empty packaging back home with you and dispose of it there. The Maldives cannot cope with excess waste (seriously, google: Thilafushi) so something as small as taking your plastic bottles home with you can make a difference.
  • Go snorkelling – the ocean is beautiful but be mindful of the coral, it’s very fragile.
  • Lastly, as the saying goes “Take only pictures, leave only footprints“.

If you enjoyed this then you might enjoy reading about my favourite things about the Maldives.

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A girl's guide to The Maldives - a brief but handy guide to a paradise honeymoon destination, written by a normal girl!