Friday, 19 May 2017

Row NYC, New York City.


 
I was lucky enough to visit NYC at Christmas time, and had the pleasure of staying at Row NYC.

Hotel Interior

My first thoughts when entering this hotel was how dark it was. It definitely had an edgy contemporary vibe to it, with lighting to match. The hallways near to the rooms were adorned with funky, almost eclectic art work, which added to the contemporary vibe of this hotel.

Lobby
Hallways (source:google)
The lift (elevator) system was definitely different to anything I'd experienced, and I only knew how to work this because I'd done my research. There were many tourists that were left in a state of confusion when trying to access them. Basically there were approximately 6 lifts to choose from (each numbered 1-6). You typed in the floor of your hotel room, and it would give you a number. That number correlated with the lift number that you needed to access. It definitely reduced a build up of people and was certainly a clever way to do it, however instructions next to the lifts would have been helpful for others.
Service
 
Admittedly, we didn't come into contact with many staff from the hotel. The gentleman that served us during check-in was polite and friendly, and even upgraded us (no reason/request to). The older gentleman in the small on-site shop was pleasant enough too.
 
Hotel Room
 
We didn't have the best view (being on the 4th floor) but the extra space that the upgrade provided us was more beneficial to us than a pretty view. It was a disabled room, so lots of floor space and a large bathroom which I was really thankful for. New York appears to be renown for its small hotel rooms and steep prices so I was grateful for the free upgrade. The disadvantage of being on the 4th floor (apart from the poorer view) was the sound. This is the first time I'd visited NY and I didn't realise how crazy the traffic was. Constant sirens and cars beeping. You could hear all this quite clearly from the room, however most times the A/C drowned the noise out, or we just got used to it. It did occasionally wake me up in the morning though (New Yorkers seem to honk their horns at all hours of the night and not give a monkeys... something that us English aren't used to!).

The bed was slightly smaller than anticipated (I have always experienced large beds in the US) but the comfort definitely made up for this. The bedside cabinets provided plenty of storage and charging points integrated into the lamp base meant I could charge my phone beside me whilst I slept, winner!
 
The only downfall to this room (and its a strange, but annoying one!) was the wardrobe. There were 2 hanging rails inside the wardrobe which were positioned facing outwards instead of across (like most wardrobes). The hanging space between the top rail and bottom rail, then the bottom rail to the bottom of the wardrobe was ridiculous. You could probably just fit a babies outfit in there for it to hang freely. Adults clothes? Forget it. Half of the clothes would have draped onto the bottom of the wardrobe or the other rail. Such a bizarre set up, and so frustrating that we couldn't use it.

The bathroom offered a powerful shower as well as a bath tub that enabled me to rest my aching feet after miles of walking each day.
Spacious bathroom (source:google)
Minus the few hang-ups, the room was clean and spacious, and they were the things that mattered. It was also nice to have access to a bath to rest those aching feet after a long day walking - I'm not sure if all rooms had this or if it was because this was purely a disabled room.
 
Hotel Amenities
 
Although we never used it (although I had good intentions to start off with!) the hotel offers guests the use of a well-equipped gym, as well as a café/restaurant (City Kitchen) which we never unfortunately had the time to access, but offers a huge range of foods at all hours of the day.
 
City Kitchen (source:google)
 
 
Location

Area wise, this was perfect. The hotel is located on 8th Avenue and was surrounded by restaurants, gift shops, tour bus stops, and only a 5 min walk from Times Square.
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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Afternoon Tea at The Principal, York.

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I treat my mum to a weekend in York for her 60th birthday. Read here to see what I got up to.

We cracked the weekend off with afternoon tea at The Principal Hotel, which is a 5* luxury hotel in the heart of York (right next to the Train Station, to be exact!).

I believe the majority of afternoon tea's take place in The Garden Room, which has lovely views of 'manicured lawns, all the way to the minster'. We were lucky enough to get a window seat too, which is always a bonus with such an outlook!



We were first provided with a tea menu, with a large handful to pick from. I'm not overly adventurous with my tea, so played it safe with an Earl Grey, my mum opting for a latte. We were then served our first 'savoury dish' which accompanied the afternoon tea stand which was yet to come. I've never experienced a separate savoury dish before so this was a real treat for us! The food consisted of sweet potato, chorizo and sherry vinegar veloute, smoked mackerel mousse, Yorkshire Rarebit, and a cheese flavoured soup. I didn't know what I was eating half the time, but it was lovely nonetheless!

Savoury Dish
After we had devoured the savoury plate, out came the afternoon stand. The sandwiches were egg mayonnaise, and Yorkshire ham and pickle. Although nice, I would have preferred 1 more sandwich and sacrificed a sweet for this (I always do feel that the sweet items outweigh the savoury massively no matter where you have afternoon tea). The sandwiches themselves though were fresh and the fillings were generous. 


Next up were 3 different flavours of scones; plain, fruit, cherry & almond. Accompanying this was clotted cream and jam. These scones were bite size, so were manageable in terms of quantity (and how much our stomach would take!).



The last tier consisted of a large array of sweet items; salted caramel chocolate pot, passion fruit macaroon, and a white chocolate √©clair, to name a few. Unfortunately I only got to sample the chocolate pot because by this stage I was bursting at the seams! (They did kindly box the remaining food up for us, but we never did get round to eating it later on). My only criticism with this tier was that there was only 1 of each variety, therefore you had to decide amongst yourselves who is eating what. This can put pressure on people, so usually I prefer the sweet items to come in pairs so its equal!





The service was on point. I couldn't fault it - pleasant, helpful and friendly.

The interior of the hotel was beautiful, in all areas from The Garden Room, to the hallways, even to the toilets! It oozed grandeur and detail, it was only a shame I wasn't staying there overnight too!


The Garden Room

Toilets



 

 
I definitely wouldn't hesitate in returning to The Principal and my mum was more than happy with her experience here.
 
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Saturday, 6 May 2017

One Night in York - Afternoon Tea, Motown and River Cruises

So mid March, my mum hit the big 6-0. Because it was a special birthday, I decided to go all out and treat her to a birthday she'd remember. She loves Motown music so I managed to bag 2 tickets to see The Magic of Motown who were in York for just 1 night.

Fast forward to last weekend, and the day finally arrived. We got off to a rocky start, hitting the Humber Bridge to find someone threatening to commit suicide - We were stuck on the bridge for 1.5hrs to eventually have to make a U turn on the bridge (instructed by the Police!) to then find another route. My sat nav wasn't playing ball and would insist on de-routing me back to the bridge. I finally had to follow any sign that I could find that wasn't go back home before I could get out of the area. We finally arrived in York, almost 2 hours later than anticipated.

We began our day by having afternoon tea at The Principal Hotel. The interior of this hotel is beautiful. We had a great view with the cathedral in the background, I could have sat and chatted all afternoon, but we needed to make the most of our time, so off we went wandering around all the shops, without forgetting a trip to The Shambles. I love that street, it's so quaint and full of character. I'd go in and out of every shop down there if I had time!


We headed back to the hotel at tea time and freshened up. The hotel was kind enough to give us a free drinks voucher and chocolates for my mums birthday, so we were sure to make use of this! We had a glass of wine and mum insisted that I took photos of her (which she secretly posed to whilst no-one was looking!). The wine went straight to my head (such a lightweight!) and before I knew it we were jumping in a taxi to the theatre.


Obviously Motown was more my mums era, however I knew a fair few of the songs. We clapped and bopped in our chairs to Jackson 5 and Diana Ross, it was good.

After a rough nights sleep (first night in hotels always kills me) we headed back out for breakfast, settling on a place called Baileys Tea room. We both had a traditional English breakfast before hitting The Shambles again and getting some perfect (people-free) shots - the joys of early morning starts! We then took a quick trip to get the obligatory Cathedral shot..




We then went on a river cruise, which I thought was over-priced and not as informative as I'd have hoped, but what the hell, we tried it and will know for next time! We shopped some more, then at lunch time left York centre and headed to York Designer Outlets, somewhere were I've never been before but was so glad I did. I love a good bargain as well as the next person and this place didn't fail. I managed to pick up a few clothing items, although had to restrain myself with an upcoming holiday looming.. booo! After doing a full circle of the outlets, I had plans on going out that night for drinks back home, so it was time to leave.


I love York, I've only been a handful of times, but every time I do go, I find yet another area to explore. There are so many nooks and crannies, contemporary and quaint, that keep me coming back for more!

Have you ever been to York?
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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Disney Day 11: Eating around the World & California Grill

Today was our last full day in Orlando *sob* We had a huge chunk of Disney dining snack credits to use up, so I did something I've always wanted to do.. go snacking around the world in Epcot's showcase.

To make our snack credits go further, we shared every snack we got (some were bigger than others)! It was a great way to experience different cuisines, so is great for any foodies out there!
We had chicken pockets in China and Wethers Orignal cookies in Germany to name a few..

Funnel cake in 'America'
 
Cookie in 'Germany'
 
Chicken Pockets in China
We tried to get as many photos we could with the memory maker before making our way back to the hotel. We chilled out (and probably had a nap somewhere in between!) before putting on our best clobber and making our way back out for our final night at the beautiful California Grill - I purposely saved the best till last.

Fine dining to the extreme, if it wasn't for the Disney Dining plan, our budget definitely wouldn't have stretched to meet the prices on this menu. It was eye watering, but oh my god, the quality definitely reflected this, and then some. I had the best steak I had ever tasted, and probably will ever taste. We were on the 15th floor, with floor to ceiling glass windows which overlooked the resort, Cinderellas castle glowing in the distance, it really was magical. We attempted to go out onto the bridge after our meal in the dark to watch the fireworks from high up, but the wind was too strong and I was too cold so we went back in.

Best.Steak.Ever.

View from restaurant window



California Grill's Christmas tree
It's so hard to get a booking in this restaurant so if I never have the pleasure of dining here again, I'm happy to say I've done it once and will definitely remember the experience.

That's it for our Disney adventure! Stay tuned as we're now heading to the coast and staying in Clearwater!
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Monday, 1 May 2017

Disney Day 10: Touring Disney's Moderate Hotels & Coral Reef in Epcot

After a late night at MVMCP, I pencilled in a slow day today. We had a lie-in, then visited the majority of the moderate hotels, just for future reference ;-) My personal favourite was Port Orleans Riverside, the scenery was lovely and it seemed really chilled and relaxing.

Port Orleans Riverside
We had another afternoon swim in our pool before the sun set. I was still loving the fact that we always had this pool to ourselves!

Pool time
In the evening we made our way to Epcot for a dining reservation at Coral Reef. Unfortunately we weren't sat next to the shark tanks as I'd have liked, but one can't have everything! Although the food was nice here, I felt it was a little overrated, and I definitely do think the tanks are the selling point for this restaurant.


Dessert at Coral Reef
We made use of more fast passes. We rode Soarin' (love that one!) and Nemo & Friends (we've done this so many times but its a nice chill-out ride so I don't mind) and watched more of the illumiNations firework display.

Stay tuned to see what we get up to on day 11!
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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Disney Day 9: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party!

I feel like I had been bracing myself for this day the whole of my Disney holiday. I'd researched so much into MVMCP, obsessed over a tonne of pictures of snow falling over Main Street, and now here we were, about to embark on our very own Christmas party.

In the morning we chilled, in fact I have no recollection of what we actually did, no photo evidence either which tells me it wasn't anything too exciting.

We made our way over to Magic Kingdom for 4pm (when the party gates officially opened) and made use of the quiet queue times. The real party didn't kick off till 7pm so we grabbed a starbucks and just took in the atmosphere and Christmas decorations.


As the sun set we rode specific rides which gave perfect views over MK. Everything looked so pretty all lit up!

We watched a tonne of shows, and saw the Christmas version of wishes. The castle looked perfect adorned in icicles, and I got goose bumps as they played Mariah Carey's 'All I want for Christmas'!  The parade was great - full of characters in their festive attire singing Christmas songs, it really helped me to get into the festive spirit, despite the heat!

 
 

We visited most food points during the night and collected our free cookies, festive egg nog drinks and snow domes.


We managed to cram so much into the night, it was well worth the money. Definitely yet another bucket list tick!


 






Stay tuned for day 10!
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Friday, 21 April 2017

Disney Day 8: 1900 Park Fare, Crazy Golf & The Mall!

Today we pencilled in a 'slow day' today because I knew by now all the action of both NYC and our time in the parks would have started to take its toll.
We ventured over to The Grand Floridian and dined with classic English Disney characters. We met the likes of Marry Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, The Mad Hatter etc.. The buffet here was great, so much choice and a cute little section for kids (only in Disney can you eat jelly sweets on top of your pancakes for breakfast! Also in Disney can adults get away with drinking chocolate milk for breakfast).
Ignore my creepy awful face! Totally for Winnie the Pooh...
We mooched around The Grand Floridian afterwards, admiring the architecture and general grandness of the place (they didn't just get given that name for fun!). We then headed over to The Boardwalk around lunchtime. I feel this place is always overlooked on Disney holiday's. I love the atmosphere here and its a great place for some downtime after a few hectic days in the parks.
Subtle Mary Poppins theming around the GF.

Giant Gingerbread Houses in the GF

We then headed to a few outlets, I spent way too long in Forever 21 and bought a few winter items (which felt strange when it was so hot outside!). Definitely bracing myself for my return to the UK! The hotel pool was calling us for a quick dip before the sun went down..

In the evening we headed to Winter Summerland, which is a crazy golf course. We did Fantasia Gardens last year and loved it, so thought we'd mix it up and try the other course this time and I will admit, I got a little over-enthusiastic about the theming.. the extent Disney go to is just beyond belief.

A house set up ready for Christmas morning...



Stay tuned for day 9!
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