Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Back to Edinburgh for 3 days!

Well I've booked it and heading home to see the family and get a break from the heat here!

Wanted to go In August so I could catch a show at the Edinburgh festival, but needs must and I'll miss it by a week!

Already planned in my head where I'm going, what restaurants I'll be visiting, my nan loves Chinese, but I'm hoping to tempt her into coming to my favourite Mongolian restuarant, aptly named Khublai Khan, it's a wonderful restaurant.

Then my sister has booked me for an evening at the Witchery and possibly a cocktail or 2 along George Street.

If it's toastie (a long shot I know) then I'll spend the day with my niece at the Botanical Gardens and head to Stockbridge to have a nosey through the charity shops, or maybe head up to Princess Street Gardens as it's been ages since I've just walked through there.

Getting excited now,as it's been almost 2 years since I've been back and I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone.

Then, cheeky I know, I'm heading to the Metro (Newcastle) for a spot of retail therapy and maybe lunch along the quayside.

Not very exotic I know, but it is a culture difference for me!!


Friday, 18 June 2010

America - West Coast Road Trip

A few years back we planned an American Road Trip which would include LA - Vegas - San Francisco, Seattle, Montana to Minneapolis in 3 weeks.

Leaving from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and then onto Los Angeles, we were really excited, it’s a long flight but you don’t seem to notice much when your heading out on an adventure.

We landed in LA and picked up our rental car, a standard saloon that was to be our transport for 3 girls and a whole load of camping gear – yes people, the plan was to camp around the West Coast!

Having only arrived with our back packs and sleeping bags, we made our first stop at Space Camp to pick up our third traveler, we spent the first night here in the cabins and spent a bit of time just soaking up the atmosphere of a new place!

The second day in LA was as it should be – POOL PARTY, we’d been invited to one of the other camp leaders parent’s home for a party, real 90210 stuff! When we got there, the house was just enormous and you could see the Hollywood sign as you drive into the street. There was already a big crowd of people there, music pumping on the stereo and just lots of people having a great time.

The house had a massive den where others where watching movies and feasting on pop corn and it’s where most of us just crashed, it was really chilled out and a great start to the holiday.

We had to say goodbye to new found friends and head to Target to pick up supplies, Tent, camp stove, gas, plates, cutlery, cool boxes, food, essentials etc, packed up the car and waved good bye to LA.

Next stop Vegas baby yeah!

We drove through the Nevada desert in our fabulously air conditioned car and stopped at Taco bell (one thing I would say, road trips don’t always account for those of us who enjoy healthy eating, I was in the middle on my Aerobics instruction course and don’t enjoy fast food, but needs must!) we got out the car and the heat hits you like a punch from a heavyweight! It was over 100 degrees, hot as hell!

We left Taco Bell behind us and drove the rest of the way to Vegas – what a fantastic place to visit – the closest I got to a casino was a Grosvenor Casino, but this was just amazing. We found a travel lodge and an American couple who wanted to go half on a big room – save cash, so there was 5 of us in this suite, which was actually really very nice. We all got ready and headed out to hit the strip, WOW, we watched the Bellagio fountains, wandered through some of the big casinos, had a chair massage, which was lovely and of course had a little flutter, we’d budgeted what we were going to spend on that night and I braved the Black Jack table and won a couple of hundred dollars in my sitting! The drinks were flowing and we were euphoric, collecting my winnings we walked through the casinos again (as many are connected and its all a/c which is a delight, we were passing the craps table and some Texans required us lovely ladies to throw the dice for them – it’s like something from a movie!

We got back to our hotel around 5am (you lose all track of time in the casinos) got some sleep and then up and out to Starbucks for brekkie!

With the car packed, coffers a bit fuller and smiles on faces, we left the hazy desert behind and started our long journey to San Francisco.

We took the road back to LA and from there headed north, we drove up to Sequoia National Park, where we had our first camp, we got the tent up and made some smores and having my first experience on making sure you’re food is all packed away completely to avoid attracting bears!!! BEARS!! I’m all for nature, but sometimes I like to just enjoy it on the TV – bears are one of those things I’m not keen on meeting in the flesh! We were all camped up and were inside the facilities brushing our teeth when all we can hear is some guy outside, banging some pots together screaming ‘there’s a bear in the camp’ sweet mother of all things holy, I got the fright of my life, imagining some huge beast waiting outside the door to eat us! The panic passed and we all went back to our tents. Honestly, no, I didn’t sleep that night, shadows, noises, my overactive imagination – I slept in the car the next day!

In the morning we spent some time exploring the National Park, which is just beautiful and time passes too quickly and we were back in the car and heading up towards Yosemite, where we past the night undisturbed!

Getting to San Francisco and a bed was fantastic, we were staying with friends who had emigrated there years back and it was a great place to base ourselves and go see everything! We jumped on the BART (train system) and during the course of 2 days, we say, Haight Street, Golden Gate Bridge and the Tea gardens, China Town, pier 39 and fisherman’s wharf – we packed a lot in and it was fantastic!

Driving back up north past Eureka (everyone has to stop here for a pic!!) on to Redwood National Park for a day of trekking,

Heading on up to Seattle, our next destination we had an unexpected stop in Eugene when we crashed our car on the highway! It was one of the scariest moments of my life, when everything is in slow motion and you really think that this is it, we totaled the car and an amazingly friendly woman stopped and helped us with everything, calling the appropriate people, took us back to her home, fed and watered us and made sure we were ok, thankfully we all walked away with just some bruises and a big fright!

The car rental company were amazing, we stayed in Eugene for the night in a motel, treated ourselves to dinner out to try and recover from the days events and in the morning a people carrier was dropped off for us to use for the rest of our holiday at the same price as our saloon – it was sheer luxury! It was almost like the accident never happened – everything taken care of for us and we were back on track for the road trip.

We took ourselves up the Olympic National Park, again, like all the parks we went to, they are breathtaking the things you see there!

Next stop, Seattle and we were staying at one of their hostels, ditched our gear and went in search of a gig that had been recommended, some rock band, still can’t remember the name of it! We met some locals there who invited us onto a new club that was opening and so we agreed and had a fantastic night out with some great people!

In the morning, a little worse for wear we went out to Pike’s Place market for some lunch and it would be rude to be in Seattle on not indulge in Starbucks! Once the hangovers had passed we headed to the Space Needle and went straight to the top for an amazing view!!

The rest of the trip was spent travelling through Washington and Montana, a short stay in Glacier National Park, visiting friends, and catching up and drinking copious amounts of Captain Morgan’s, then the dreaded drive down to Minneapolis to fly home and then end of our road trip!

An amazing time, some scary, some breathtaking, but everything memorable and well worth doing!

Oil Spill

I still can't believe that in this day and age that the oil is still gushing out at a horrific rate. The effects on the environment and people's jobs etc could be permanently damaged.

I know accidents can happen, but this isn't some spilt milk here and seeking compensation just won't clear up the ocean nor retract the damage already done!

I was watching some of the interview yesterday with the BP CEO and I know the man is in a difficult situation, but when you are in charge of something so massively important, there should always be back up plans already in place - risk assessments are carried out in normal offices on a day to day basis, were they in place here? Doesn't look like it!

I need to read more into it, but it still doesn't change the fact that as I type it's still spewing oil out and it's not looking like it's going to be stopped for at least another month!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Weekend break to Carcassonne

We ventured to Carcassonne a few years back for a weekend break.

Having looked through the internet for more information on the place, it just seemed like a magical place to go. We actually booked our hotel within the castle grounds (Best Western Le Donjon Les Ramparts) and it was like being in a fairytale.

We got off the plane and were met by glorious sunshine (which I wasn’t expecting, I’d packed for normal spring weather) so I was out looking for a change of wardrobe as soon as we got there.

We got to our hotel to drop off our luggage and settle in and the suite was just beautiful, split level with a large lounge area, up a few stairs to the bedroom area and a lovely big bathroom. Coming out of the room you walked across a courtyard, filled with flowers and looking like a picture postcard!

We took ourselves out on an expedition to see what the place was about, there are lots of touristy shops inside the grounds where you can buy souvenirs etc, and there are restaurants inside the Cite which are just sensational, the food is top quality and in some cases, when you’re tucking into the Cassoulet, you feel like you could be living in the times of King Arthur!

We spent a day just exploring the grounds and taking lots of photos, it’s a photographers dream with all the nooks and crannies to play around with!

The whole trip was excellent, the scenery, the food, the hotel – just a great and very romantic place to visit.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Phuket with the Girls - Where to go and what to do

When we visited Phuket a few years ago, we stayed in Karon Beach for 3 weeks, which was perfect for a nice quiet holiday.

Based in Karon Beach and using Patong as well, we booked quite a few trips including:

A speed boat ride out to Coral Island, where we went snorkeling.

A boat trip out to Phang Nga - James Bond Island, saw the big Sleeping Budda at Suwannakuha Temple, Koh Panyee the floating village - we stopped here for lunch which was delicious.

Elephant trekking

A weekend stopover in Kho Phi Phi where we took a long tail boat out for some more snorkeling and had a picnic on a deserted island. We stayed right on the beach in huts, very well equipped and had a night out in the beach hut bars!

A night out at Simon cabaret (this is an excellent show!)

A night out watching an authentic Thai Boxing match

Most days we would get a tuk tuk to Kata Bay to sunbathe and do some water sports and we spent many a leisurely day just soaking up the sun and swimming in the sea whilst feasting on iced sticks of pineapple sold by the lovely Thai lady who wandered down the beach!

There are also some great little bars in Karon to enjoy a Mai Thai or three and have a game of Jenga with the bar staff, or like us maybe just relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in hand (remember to drink plenty of water as well!!) Thailand has such a luxurious feel to it and the cost is a fraction of many other countries.

In the evenings we would head into Patong which is only a short tuk tuk ride from Karon and is a lively environment – with a multitude of bars and clubs etc.

On one occasion during our holiday, we’d arranged for a taxi through our reception at the hotel, the driver picked us up and took us all over Phuket, including local temples, jewellery manufacturers and the cashew nut factory for a tour.

No doubt the cab driver is on some kind of commission from bringing you along, but it was a good day out and for only approx GBP10.00!

During our holiday we also drove down to Prom Thep cape to watch the sunset, it's really most dramatic and something you'll remember forever, tourists and locals alike gather at the point to watch it.

We also took a day out to go shopping in Phuket town – amazingly cheap and lots to choose from. Although the sizing makes one feel a bit on the big size as the Thai women are a lot smaller than a robust Scottish lass!

One tip though, got some weird looks on the plane home, my sister had just given birth and I got a large ‘cuddly toy’ for my new niece… trying to travel through Bangkok with a big stuffed teddy is not the best look!

I have some wonderful memories from my visit to Thailand and hope to go back and revisit some of the places I loved so much.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Family Holidays and Reunions for large groups in Cyprus

Cyprus is a great place to come to if there is a large crowd and especially with kids. We had a crowd come over for a reunion and used The villas are all based on a private road with about 9 (3 bed) villas on it, giving you a bit of privacy at the end of the day, but still all close enough together to have a great time with family and friends. There is also a restaurant on site as well which was really handy!

We used this as a base and met up with everyone, ventured to Costas Taverna for the usual Meze, had an evening in the Stone House Inn (the restaurant on site) there was also some live music on as well, which the mums and dads loved. We took everyone down to Coral Bay for an evening with dinner at the Coral King restaurant and then onto the Coral Sunset bar for some drinks and watched a bit of cricket!

Lunches were usually Sense Cafe at the foot of the Pegia/Coral Bay Hill or at Andria's on the Coral Bay strip.

It's a great place for the kids as well, there is a Paintball and Skate park in Yeroskipou, a Waterpark for the kids (& big kids), Go Karting, Mini golf in Coral Bay, there is a new driving green for all ages really, water sports, horse riding, ten pin bowling, pool, give them a football, let them loose on the beach! They'll have a great time!

The weather, especially June through to end of September is hot as you can see July and August is crazy hot - but if the kids are in the sea and pool all day, running up your ice cream bill, they'll love it!

Easter time is still lovely weather - it's not busy (I'm talking about Paphos) but there are still things to do. (You might get some rain, not uncommon for April time).

Flights are always a bit more expensive at School holiday time, I know many properties will be a lot cheaper in April. But I think if you look to book early, you might still benefit from special offers people have had on for the recession these last couple of years. I know quite a few places that have slashed their prices by about 35% to make it easier for people to come across. Can't see that kind of discount continuing forever, so get in quick.

Personally - I'd say that May/June time is a perfect time to come to Cyprus for a family holiday, not too hot if you want to make the most of the island.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Road trips I have already been on!

Well seeing as this is the travelbunny1 blog, I best tell you about some of the places I have already been to - so let's start with my road trip around Italy - one of my favourite countries in the world.

Itinerary for a good road trip.

We backpacked though Italy a few years back and it was an amazing experience.

We didn't book any hotels, we just found places when we got off the train, real fly by the seat of your pants traveling!

We flew into Rome where we then proceeded to jump on a train to the Termini Station and then walked to our hostel (the only place I prebooked before arriving), which was an apartment split into 3 dorm rooms, each with 6 beds in, we were sharing with a couple of Swedish girls and a German couple, it was all very civilized (was a bit worried previously as had no experience of hostels) but this place was lovely.

We unpacked, got changed and hit the streets of Rome, we ventured into a lovely Italian restaurant to have our first pasta dish – Italian style and then walked around taking in the sites.

The next day we went walkabout for some breakfast, croissants and a latte, sustenance for the day of exploring ahead. We paid for out tickets on the hop on hop off bus which costs around GBP15.00 and you can get to all the main tourist sites at your own pace (

We spent the day exploring the Colosseum, Campidoglio, visiting the Fontana Di Trevi, Villa Borghese and ending our trip that day at Piazza Venezia, where we took ourselves off for a slice of pizza! We’d already decided to use our 24 hour pass the next morning to go to the Vatican, an absolute delight to visit, everything there is a sense sensation! St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, it’s a magical place to visit.

The next day we went to Termini and jumped on a train to our next destination – Florence! The journey is just under 2 hours, but it flies by! When we got there, we didn’t have a place to stay planned so we called around a few places on the tourist guide we had and lo and behold we found another beautiful apartment that rented out rooms to travelers, this time we were sharing with 2 younger American girls who had been back packing for a while across Europe, but they were beginning to get on each others nerves. The youngest of the 2 came back in the middle of the night in floods of tears and carrying a painting rolled up (still no idea where she got it from) – her friend had ditched her and gone off drinking with an Italian guy she’d met! (one thing I would say about backpacking – if you’re with a friend, look out for each other, it can be scary being left on your own in a foreign country!)

The afternoon we arrived we took ourselves out again to a local deli and bought a medley of food and some wine and fresh bread and had ourselves a feast! Then the site seeing began over the next 2 and a half days with Santa Maria Novella Basilica, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, Baptistery and cathedral.

From Florence we took ourselves to Pisa for the afternoon to go and see the Leaning tower of Pisa (naturally!), another thing I have to say about Italy is that the train stations are pure works of art – they are incredible to look at! I digress, we disembarked the train at Pisa and started to walk to the Piazza del Duomo and on the way I was sidetracked by the most beautiful arrangement of marzipan I have ever seen – so I had to pop in and buy some to enjoy later with an espresso!! So onwards we went to the tower, there were lots of tourists there as you can imagine and more than about 10 trying to take the photo of looking like you are holding up the Leaning Tower itself (alright we did it too, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time!) There was a fabulous market on that day as well, selling usual touristy fare. It was a trip worth making.

We went back to Florence to pick up our back packs and headed onwards up to Venice by train, about 2 hours in total and a glorious trip, very scenic. We got there late afternoon and were searching, desperately before it gets dark for a suitable place to stay (our guide book had warned us off a few places we’d walked past) as luck would have it we got chatting to some other backpackers and they told us that they were staying in a hostel about 10 minutes walk, so we thanked them and went looking for it, it was a renovated property with a domed roof and was just lovely. The proprietor didn’t speak much English but thankfully my travel buddy was from Cameroon and could speak French with him, which he knew fluently. Unfortunately, he mistook my friend as my maid as she is African and I am white, which seemed to him quite strange! We soon set him straight on that matter! But thankfully he did have a room available, it was actually on the top floor and it was a delightful room (just the 2 of us in it) with a shared bathroom on the floor, which was spotless!

So dropped off the backpacks, showered and out for dinner in Venice, it is actually a bit pricey in Venice for us budget back packers, but we thought what the heck and found a fabulous little restaurant and had a pasta feast, then strolled back to the hostel, knackered! The next day we spent walking the streets of Venice and headed to Piazza San Marco and the basilica, all the little alleys and the beautiful architecture on the way makes it a real treat. The gondolas are fun to watch but mega expensive for those watching the pennies.

The time had come to leave Venice and head to fair Verona, it’s about an hour and half in the train, sounds stupid and extremely dangerous now I think back on it, but when you get off the train, there are usually people milling about offering their business cards and brochures for accommodation and that’s how we happened upon this lovely little house with 2 hosts who rented out rooms, it was a gorgeous place, very arty and our room was just amazing and with our own bathroom. So we dropped the bags, had a nap, showered, changed and hit Verona. It’s a sight to behold strolling along the steets on a summer evening, there were still lots of people milling around, we had a nosey at the ‘posh shops’ like Chanel and then grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to our room.

In the morning we were provided with breakfast by our hosts and we ventured out again to go see Juliet’s balcony and also the Arena di Verona (mini colosseum) and then went to see Ponte Pietra and that was all we had time for as we needed to get to the train station for the last journey – Milan.

It takes around 2 hours to get to Milan from Verona and if we had been lucky with our accommodation till then, it was all about to come crashing down as we went to the youth hostel in Milan, it was truly horrendous and filthy. So bad in fact that we slept there that night (had to, nowhere else to go) in dorms, huge dorms, and neither of us used the bathroom once, you just couldn’t! We got up and out as early as we could, I checked my bank balance and had enough to pay for a decent hotel which we gladly did, had a shower, a long one, started to feel human again and happy to be in Milan and out we went, headed to the Duomo, did a bit of shopping, to be honest we didn’t do very much in Milan (I was to return a few months later for a football match and did the whole tourist thing then, but that’s for another time!

We flew out of Milan and back to Stansted!

A great road trip, memories that will last a lifetime. (But no going back to that Milan Hostel!!)

Monday, 7 June 2010


Hello and welcome to my travelbunny1 blog.

I hope you'll enjoy travelling around the world with me and experiencing some of the wonderful places I have been to and better still, the places still on my 'to do' list.

Based in Cyprus, my plan is to explore more of Eastern Europe and Africa and fulfill some of my globe trotting dreams.

The world is a big place - so much to do, so much to see, best get cracking!