Cocktail in hand – 2017, a year in review

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but hopefully you’ve been following on Instagram!  This week, Facebook did it’s year in review video for me and reminded me of a few things which happened this year, but here’s a highlight for the blog.

NYE eve fireworks at Magic Kingdom
NYE dance party at Italy, Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off January 2017 partying at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, USA.  We arrived a few days earlier and saw the NYE fireworks the night before New Years Eve, this was a great tip so to see NYE fireworks in both parks.  Epcot celebrated when it turned midnight in each country and I would definitely do it again, of course the speciality glow cocktails and Grey Goose slush cocktails in France certainly got the party started!

Enjoying the speciality glow cocktail in France, Epcot, NYE
NYE fireworks at Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d took a trip to Disney World to carry our wedding planning and menu tasting sessions and whilst there enjoyed our favourite theme parks.  After Florida, we flew back to the UK to see friends and family, we’d flew in from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and then Germany, so although the flights were getting a bit much, it was lovely to see them for a little longer after being away over a year.  Of course we enjoyed plenty of cocktails with them!

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in January, we headed back to Australia.  We spent most of the year in Sydney whilst saving up for our wedding.  Although we managed a few trips such as the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay.  We enjoyed going to Vivid, tourist attractions, some trance nights and bunny sitting, plus getting a city centre apartment.  For my birthday weekend we enjoyed various cocktails including at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 360 Dining and the dry ice skull cocktails at Assembly Bar.  Many more cocktails were of course consumed at the various happy hours I managed to find!!

Birthday cocktails at 360 Dining above Sydney
Working my way through the various skull dry ice cocktails at Assembly Bar, Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Martini photo at the Tower of Terror Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, courtesy of Misty Miotto Photography 

In October, we headed back to the UK to catch up with family for a quick trip prior to the wedding.  We enjoyed the rest of October and early November in Florida celebrating our Disney World wedding.  Our favourite wedding cocktail was a Bramble for the early evening, and at the after party we had a Purple Martini, a sweet and sour twist on a Cosmopolitan, complete with glow cubes.  Later in the trip we enjoyed various visits to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a firm must do for my year!  This year it was super fun with our family and friends

 

November also saw us take a trip to New Orleans, were I sampled the famous Grenade cocktail and drank Love Potion No.9 shots in a Vampire Speakeasy.  They helped ease the fact that my unbacked up iPhone broke and I lost all my photos from the last few months.

 

We followed that by a trip to New York, of course many cocktails were consumed there, and I loved checking out the small bars.  Following that we headed back to the UK, were I tested out a few new places.

Today’s view of the Sydney city skyline

 

December sees us just arrive back in Sydney, writing this I have a perfect view of the city skyline complete with the Harbour Bridge.

 

Who knows what 2018 will bring, my life has most definitely become less organised!  But one thing’s for sure, it will certainly involve more cocktails and travel!

 

Darling Harbour happy hour cocktails
Working our way through the Hard Rock happy hour cocktails!

Interviews with other travellers: Emily

Today is the first in my series of interviews with other travellers, I wanted to include these in my blog to pay homage to travellers before me whose blogs I devoured and gave me the aspirations and inspiration to book my one way flight. By sharing these interviews I want to inspire my readers to take that trip they’ve always been meaning to do and show how other travellers are already taking that path.

Today’s interview is with Emily of www.seehertravel.com, a 31 year old currently in Jamaica and we’re going to hear all about her adventures. Emily, can you give us a brief outline of your travelling experience – where you have travelled and how long you have been travelling?

I’ve been travelling on and off since I was 15. My first experience being abroad was a 3-month exchange to France in high school and after that I was hooked. Heading to Australia after high school at the age of 17 when I should have been going to university wasn’t completely what my parents had in mind for me, but it really shaped how I considered travel to be an integral part of life for my adult life. Since those 7 months in driving around Australia in an unsafe car, I have travelled through Southeast Asia for 6 months, lived in the Cook Islands for an internship, done a semester abroad in New Zealand, worked for the UN in Fiji, backpacked through Central America for 3 months, hiked all over Peru, and lived in Kyrgyzstan for 18 months with the Peace Corps. Now I’m living in Jamaica for a year working for a non-profit, exploring this beautiful country as well as many other Caribbean islands (St. Lucia last week, Curacao next week!)

 

Sounds amazing, can you tell us how and why did you decided to start travelling?

My first big trip abroad was at 17 with a girl from high school, Kristen. We weren’t actually close friends, but we sat together in senior math, and one day she leaned over and said she was thinking of going to Australia instead of straight to university and did I want to go. I thought about it for about 5 seconds and said “Sure!”

 

Wow, that’s an early age! How did you initially save up to start your travels?

I have always made travelling a priority: in high school I did menial chores, paper routes, babysitting, house-sitting, and neighborhood labor to make cash, 90% of which I ferociously saved for first my trip to France and then my trip to Australia. Some of my trips have been funded through the work I’m doing, like my time in the Cook Islands and Kyrgyzstan and now Jamaica. My backpacking style is always budget, my philosophy has been to spend less to travel more. I have never had a new car, a big tv, fancy clothes, or the newest iPhone, I prefer to spend my cash on travel.

 

 

Do you fund your travels by working along the way?

Depending on the trip, like Jamaica, the Cook Islands, and Kyrgyzstan I have worked in development through internship/volunteering programs. In Australia, I worked behind a bar in the Outback and picked grapes. When I backpacked Central America and Southeast Asia, I was purely backpacking off of savings, though I did volunteer for a month in Thailand with a children’s centre, which was a great experience and saved me some cash.

 

What other methods do you use to fund your travels or assist to keep your travels on the cheaper side?

I have written travel blogs for my family and friends for years, but in the last 6 months I have begun considering it a business that can help me travel. I have also begun freelance writing and submitting travel writing to magazines to help pay for fun times. I am very budget conscious, probably to a fault. It is a habit that was formed very young and even 14 years later, I have a hard time breaking my go to budget level mentality (I still end up staying in truly horrid places for no reason at all).

Where was your favourite place(s) to visit?

This is a hard one! I was just in St. Lucia and it was absolutely beautiful. I loved bathing in the mineral pools and taking in the gorgeous scenery. I adored my time in Myanmar, a country I had been obsessed with for years. New Zealand is like my home in Canada but smaller and with meat pies, so it is very high on my list. My time spent in El Salvador was also incredible, so many neat things to do and the people were wonderfully friendly, I unexpectedly hitch hiked more in El Salvador than I have anywhere else, save New Zealand of course!

 

Did you have any nightmare experiences along the way?

Several. I have travelled alone a lot, especially in the last few years, so security as a solo female is always a priority. I’ve has some classic creepy taxi experiences, along with the general catcalling on the street that has gotten too close for comfort. I was in a terrible guesthouse on the Nicaraguan border that was attached to a bar and men were pounding on my door all night. Recently, I was attacked by two dogs here in Jamaica and thought I was going to be maimed for life. I do have some scars, but none incredibly prominent. A monkey jumped on me in Nepal, which to me is an absolute nightmare as a) I despise monkeys (never trust anything with opposable thumbs you can’t reason with) and b) I’m deathly scared of dying from rabies. I did not die from rabies, though I spent an entire night thinking I was going to.

 

Ah! Luckily I’ve managed to avoid animal attacks so far! Is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have started properly blogging earlier and using my writing talents for my advantage.

 

Do you ever plan to ‘settle down’?

I’m in the middle of a existential crisis right now actually, do I keep going with the line of work I’m in Jamaica doing or do I follow through with the travel writing/blogging and see where that takes me? Very tough call, but I can’t ever imagine a day where I say “I’m done” when it comes to travelling and exploring this world.

 

Difficult decision, and there’s still so many more places to explore! What advice would you give to aspiring travellers debating whether to take the plunge?

Just do it! You can make excuses for years, I have heard them all: I have a cat, I can’t save money, I ‘need’ a new car, I don’t have anybody to go with, I’m scared etc. All bullshit in my opinion if travel is really something you want to have in your life. I encourage anybody to just get out there and start. Begin with a short 10 trip somewhere relatively simple where your language is spoken. Stay in one place and do day trips. Work your way up to longer trips and more adventurous destinations. And if you’re a solo, and if you are always waiting for someone to go with you, you will never go anywhere, so make a plan, stay in guesthouses with a community feeling, and do what makes you happy!

 

Well thank you Emily for your insights! If you want to follow more on Emily’s adventures, head over to www.seehertravel.com.


Eating and drink ‘around the world’ at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I love the Epcot World Showcase at Disneyworld, Florida, but between September and November it becomes super special as over 30 stalls are adding selling additional food and drinks, Disney describes as ‘a culinary adventure’.  For 2017 it runs from 31 August through until 13 November.  If you’re not local to Florida, I’d suggest visiting Monday to Thursday as weekends can be really busy. This year if you are on the Disney dining plan you can even exchange your table service and quick service credits for 3 snack credits to be used on food (unfortunately not alcohol)! Admission to Epcot is required to attend the festival and guest must be over 21 to purchase alcohol. You can pick up a passport with details of the food and drink available and have fun getting it stamped around ‘the world’! In addition, there are also ‘Eat to the Beat’ Concerts and culinary displays, in addition to Halloween, this truly makes fall my favourite time to visit Orlando.

We’ve visited the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, Disneyworld a few years running, 2016 was the first year we didn’t attend since going on our first trip together there not attending. This year is a definite for sure, since we’ll be getting married out there we get to take our nearest and dearest!  Here’s a look back at our previous eats, I believe mostly still available.  We’ll definitely try and feature the countries we’ve missed when we get to go back. I’m not going to cover restaurant* meals in this post, but they will definitely feature on the blog at a later date, I mean, who doesn’t love Disney food?!

Australia:

Prawns and lamb at Australia

Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies – I always thought this belonged to New Zealand, but apparently not! This was tasty lamb, topped with potato chips (or crisps to fellow Brits like me!). Yum, I could just eat one of these right now, definitely a winner!
Grilled sweet and spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, peppers, onions, and snap peas – These prawns were pretty tasty, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth a go! I prefer my prawns with garlic (plus sometimes chilli), but the accompaniments were fine for something a little different.

Belgium:

Potato and leek waffle with beer-braised beef and smoked gouda cream – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one but I was pleasantly impressed. I can’t remember there being a strong taste of gouda, but would definitely get again.
Canada:

Canadian cheddar cheese soup – If you haven’t been to Le Cellier, this is definitely worth a go, extremely rich and tasty, full of flavour. I believe for 2016 it also includes a pretzel roll would be a lovely welcome addition for dipping!
“Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce – At one of the more expensive samples of the festival this is definitely worth using a snack credit for. Whilst I’m not a major fan of mushroom, this was just lovely. All in all based on the offerings we’ve tasted at Canada, I’m definitely needing to make a reservation at Le Cellier!  (Edit since writing this we’ve been and it was amazing!)

China:

Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce – I think the reason we’ve rated so highly on what we’ve chosen is because we usually stick to what we think we will like. In future years we need to be more adventurous and of course that just means more trips to Disney!  This one however was a disappointment, at home in England we really enjoy Chinese crispy Peking duck with pancakes and hoisin sauce, so this one seemed like a winner. However the duck was very fatty so we felt short changed. Also we didn’t enjoy the consistency of the steamed bun, it felt a bit sloppy. I feel I should give this another go, we might of just had bad luck with the fatty duck, but won’t be racing back to eat this one again.
France:

La Passion Martini Slush – Whilst I really

The orange and citron slushes available all year roundenjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

enjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush – I’ve got a big crush for Cosmopolitans at the moment and would love one of these 2014’s edition right now! Again couldn’t beat the Grey Goose Orange Slush, but definitely worth checking out, especially if you are partial to sweet and sour tastes.

This was made with Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, cranberry and passion fruit juice.

Greece:

Spanakopita – This vegetarian offering was one of John’s favourites. Whilst I enjoyed it, I did not feel quite the same way. I felt it was a bit greasy and would have benefitted from the addition of meat. I would try it again, but would prefer to try other offerings first we haven’t yet tasted.
Hawai’i:

Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise – I was really expecting to enjoy this, however found it a bit sloppy. I’m really not into wet burgers and repeatedly in Australia keep eating burgers lately which a soggy bottom bun, it’s my pet peeve. To improve this, I think they need to ditch the mayonnaise, but put a little more of the pineapple chutney on, would add to the flavour.
Mexico:

Tequila Flight – I don’t recall eating at this stall as we go a bit nuts for the quick service restaurant in Mexico*. However we did choose to share the tequila flight – 3 shots of different flavoured tequila, including silver and gold. On this occasion I was pretty tipsy later on after experience (plus a few margaritas of course!) – mostly due to the tequila flight, which me and John were supposed to share. However after the first sip he chickened out, turns out the first one was the nicest, the other two could put hairs on your chest, so I definitely got the raw deal! Unless you’re looking to get shit-faced, I’d recommend avoiding this, I’m sure in Cava Del Tequila you could purchase better quality shots.
* I feel the need here to mention and explain the quick service restaurant La Cantina San Angel, which is open all year round. The nachos there are a huge hit for us, which are a staple every trip, and are a great use of a quick service credit. Great value, you can choose what you add, plus then there’s more sauces to help yourself to. Time it right – early before the fireworks and you can enjoy watching them with a seat and of course a few margaritas! We have also had the tacos, however have not found quite as enjoyable as they were quite sloppy.


 

 

Patagonia: 

Grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato purée – this was pretty tasty and whilst didn’t make it into the favourites, was definitely worth testing out. The chimichurri sauce was a nice addition, although not as spicy as what we’ve had elsewhere.
Scotland:

Seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon – I’m often really fussy about scallops as I like them over cooked and not ever had them in a cheese sauce before this offering. We really enjoyed this, it was an unexpected surprise and the sauce and bacon complimented it really well. Definitely one to try again!

 

Sustainable Chew:

Pork Spareribs with red wine, fennel, and cheesy mascarpone grits – A new addition in 2015, this doesn’t quite fit with idea of countries, however it was a busy weekend evening and the queues were rather large, this one not so much, so we decided to give it a go. I’m not usually a fennel fan so wasn’t expecting to enjoy this, however it was actually pretty good. The ribs were fall off the bone soft and the grits were a welcome accompaniment I wouldn’t have thought to pair. Happily surprised.

 

I can’t wait to get back to Epcot again in October 2017 to get tasting some more!!

Exploring the heart of the Whitsundays

I remember first seeing Heart Reef on a card and thought it was beautiful, I even added it into a collage of a hearts on a Valentine card I made for John one year, never did I think I would get to experience it for real, since the age of 18 I’ve been in debt, so much so that travel until recent years was not a priority. So when the opportunity arose on my Working Holiday to Australia to visit the Whitsundays a little research later and I was on that flight across the reef. To make it more cost effective, we were travelling to Hamilton Island so took our crossing over from Airlie Beach with GSL Aviation incorporating the scenic reef flight, it cost us AUS $229 each. The scenery after taking off was stunning, but it took us a little while to get to the reef, then it emerged, wow when it’s commented on how travel photography is doctored and enhanced, nope this was exactly what we got, the vibrant colours, so beautiful, absolutely stunning. This is my favourite thing that we’ve experienced in Australia, it was so inspiring, I just wanted to dive straight into those beautiful turquoise waters. The reef looked like it was endless, it was as far as the eye could see. The pilot let us know we were going to be passing Heart Reef and to have our cameras ready, of course like an idiot I nearly missed it! John had to point it out for me, it was a lot smaller than I imagined, but is truly breathtaking. A natural formation of coral reef in the shape of a heart, located in Hardy Reef, was discovered in 1975 by one of Air Whitsunday’s pilots. As you are unable to snorkel or dive at the site due to it’s protected status, Heart Reef is best experienced from the air by helicopter or seaplane. Luckily for me we swung back past so I got a better view the second time! On the way back we also got to see Whitehaven beach, which was spectacular.
If you are short on budget you can take a reef flight for a cheaper amount than what we paid without doing the transfer to Hamilton Island, it is well worth the money it was definitely my favourite thing to see in Australia. I’d read that people see the wildlife – manta rays, turtles and dolphins and whales swimming in the sea, unfortunately I didn’t experience that, but would definitely love to go again and try out a helicopter ride. Just a tip for those who get travel sick, you make want to take some tablets before hand, I was fine until Heart Reef however the pilot made a few twisty turns, but after that felt a little queasy! Still one of the best experiences of my life – highly recommended!

 

Heart Reef in the Whitsundays

Bizarre travel experiences!

Look out for our short series on our travel experiences, here is the first, the most bizarre:

  • Who’s going to get the chicken head? Really you eat chicken head?! Certainly one of the most bizarre meals I’ve ever been served up, nope don’t fancy that one much!
Anyone for chicken feet?!
  • Anyone for chicken feet?!
    Tasty huh, the helpx host we were staying with said they were like crisps to Chinese people, not sure that planet she was living on! Whilst she gobbled them down like they were the tastiest morsels on the planet, I cringed at the curled talon nails on the end of the feet. Gingerly I tasted them, sure the sauce she had cooked with them was tasty, but I just could not get past trying to pull off the muscle like tendons with my teeth! John on the other hand was a bit more adventurous, but we giggled to ourselves afterwards why on earth you would want to eat them!
  • Nail clippings and locks of hair for Loi Krathrong – Loi Krathong is celebrated annually in Thailand on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, where it’s traditional to decorate and float a basket on the river. Traditional krathong are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant, however modern krathongs can be made of bread, which can disintegrate and be eaten by fish.
    Our rose and orchid krathrong

    Our rose and orchid krathrong
    The krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolises letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. Legend says if a couple releases their krathong together, they will meet and fall in love again in the next life.

    Sticking to tradition, earlier in the day I’d snipped some of John’s hair and my fingernails (gross huh! I figured they were better than toenails to carry around!) and put them in a tissue in my bag. We searched the stalls for a pretty krathrong and chose a medium sized one decorated with roses and orchids. We headed down to the river and added our nails, hair and a gold coin, lit the candle and the incense and John took it down to the river bank to float off. Not sure if that technically means we’ll be together in the next life, but I wasn’t tempting falling in!

    Thousands of krathrongs being floated in Chiang Mai

    Between the river full of the floating krathrongs and the sky awash with floating lanterns it was so pretty! I’m not sure I’ve got rid of all my anger, but a few months after I did manage to get a job that has benefitted us financially. As for together forever, well we’ve since got engaged six months after, but I’m happy to just live in the now than worry about the next life!!

  • Finding glass in your foot years later! – Gross, not technically travelling, but John managed to find a chunk of glass in his foot from when he’d stood on glass in the sea in Thailand years before. How he hadn’t noticed it before I’ll never know, pretty gross huh!
  • Living with a porn star wannabe in Sydney – My first introduction to the attention seeking bimbos of Sydney. Living in a share house this nightmare crawled in with her boyfriend at 3am in the morning, woke the house puking, singing (badly) at the top of the voice til 4 or 5am, listening to the same song on repeat (I’m still drove insane to hear it to this day!), screaming match with a boyfriend whilst she was falling over and sounded like an elephant and then proceed to let the whole street know she was having a shag. Really, how your boyfriend didn’t know you were faking your moaning and screaming for 20 minutes I do not know (or maybe it just made him feel like a superstar?!), someone put a sock in her gob! The noise, I’ve never heard anything like it and (please) hopefully won’t ever again!
  • Tubing in Laos – John’s adventure, pretty fun, alcohol combined with tubing down a river, health and safety, erm let’s not go there!
  • Picking a restaurant in Ashfield, Sydney – lamb spine, duck feet, curdled cold blood soup, me thinks I prefer Westernised Chinese food!