Pullman Legian

Like most West Australians I have made countless trips to Bali. Each time a new hotel and new experience. Unlike any other trip, this was one with the number one priority of luxury and relaxation. Staying at the Pullman Legian was a no brainer.

We arrived to a grand foyer of absolute luxury. A shiny marble floor, large wicker lounges which were occupied by waiting guests and an open space overlooking a tropical garden being set up for the evening meal. Almost every night of the week there is a theme night offered to the guests on the lawn which is between the kids pool and the day spa, enveloped by the towering hotel rooms which make you feel as though you are in your own private oasis. That night, it was the seafood buffet; followed by a BBQ buffet; then a kids movie night on the lawn with giant beanbags and popcorn, and finally an Italian buffet. The event I have been preparing for my whole life.

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The hotel is quite large so it can be quite difficult to remember your room number but no matter where you are located there is a wonderful view. Ours overlooked a small garden with giant palm trees and hammocks, I mentally reserved which one I would be spending my time in. What I loved most about the hotel is all the secret and wonderful spots to relax with a book, some music or anything else you desired. One such other place was the rooftop pool. Set directly above the reception, towering over the resort was the infinity pool. The ocean to the left and mountains to the right, complete with a bar and sun loungers the resort became a place you didn’t want to leave.

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The welcoming atmosphere of the staff, hotel and facilities (did I mention that there is a small mini mart within the resort?) makes it accommodating to families, couples, singles and devout bookworms like myself.

Rome’s most iconic sights

The Colosseum and Roman Forum are undoubtedly two of the most popular attractions in Rome, for great reason. They are marvelous, archaic and absolutely spectacular. Built in A.D. 70-72 the iconic ruin epitomises Italy, the magnetic pull bringing culture and historical enthusiasts together. It acts as some sort of beacon for those who want to ground themselves in the historical “centre” of Europe.  The Colosseum has lived a difficult life, from gladiatorial combats to animal fights; history is etched in its bones- quite literally. There are seats within the Colosseum that have Senators names etched into the back of them, preserving their seats forever in time. Left to almost ruin after the fun and games the Colosseum remains as a stoic icon of the tumultuous Roman history that surrounds.

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The Roman Forum is an important archaeological site, fortunately preserved so we can see into what was once the centre of the city. The Forum is full of  imposing ruins that leave their mark on the valley it’s situated in. The  beauty of Rome is the eclectic mix of modernity and archaic ruin and when you are among the true heart of the Roman Forum you feel as though you are miles, if not centuries away from the modern world. So large you can get lost in the immersion, the only thing pulling you out of it is the call of pizza and wine.

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As we visited Rome during winter I did not expect many queues, but forgot that we were arriving just before the sales and the Epiphany celebrations for Christmas. It felt like every single person who was in Rome was visiting the Colosseum that day. The line was ridiculously long but I imagine it would be a lot worse during summer.If you pre-purchase a ticket you will be able to save yourself some time (any time saved waiting in lines in Italy is more time to drink wine I say!) you will also be able to gain access to the underground and third tier tours, which they limit the amount of visitors per day. You can find tickets here. With the ticket you are also granted access to the Roman Forum.

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Enjoy x

Europe in winter

Visiting Europe in winter is great for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is incredibly cheap. Hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions are all off-peak prices. So if you are contemplating a European  holiday on a budget; winter is the best time for you. Secondly, snow. Enough said. Who doesn’t love a White Christmas?!  For people watchers and atmosphere addicts, a trip to Europe during winter will have you hooked, you will never want to visit during any other season again.

Here are some of the best places in Europe to visit during winter.

Berlin, Germany.

No one does Christmas better than Germany, with historic markets full of gluhwein (mulled wine), German sausages, gingerbread, pretzels, and candied nuts on almost every corner. The most famous being Gendarmenmarkt. A 1 Euro entry fee will offer sit-in restaurants, bars and entertainment. Eating (and for that matter drinking) at the markets is incredibly cheap. You can eat lunch and dinner on the go, leaving lot’s of money for gluhwein (the perfect way to keep warm), hot chocolate, or beer. It’s the best way to take in the cheerful atmosphere and magical winter wonderland that is around you.

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Prague, Czech Republic.

Home to possibly the best Christmas tree you will ever see Prague also has Christmas markets that will give Germany a run for its money. Trdelník is a traditional pastry cooked over hot coals, covered in cinnamon sugar and sometimes Nutella. This will become a staple of your diet in Prague, I promise. Prague is generally a cheap tourist destination in Europe and Christmas time, although certainly very busy, is no exception. Food portions are huge, beer is cheap and the baroque rooftops are beautifully contrasted against grey skies.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Winter in Amsterdam is quiet, there are almost no crowds and this is due partly in fact to the freezing temperatures it reaches. Cold air drifts off the canals and there is no escaping it. The locals are used it, still riding their bikes absolutely everywhere. Rug up and huddle in some tea shops to keep warm. Wandering the streets admiring the beauty of the city and the Dutch architecture is also a great way to keep warm.

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Edinburgh, Scotland.

Edinburgh has this old historic charm about it that undoubtedly makes it an underrated European destination. There are a so many things to do which make exploring this sleepy, snowy town so much more charismatic. Edinburgh has a dark history full of filth and violence, it is truly fascinating and visiting during winter brings that history to life.

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Rome, Italy.

The best time to visit Rome is during winter. Fountains freeze over and there are little to no crowds, which means you can get more out of your day by eliminating wait time in lines. Accommodation costs are at a minimum and you get a greater sense of Roman life as the stresses of summer (crowds, tourists and the heat) all but disappear. Not to mention the dappled light and sun spurs make for some spectacular shots.

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Europe is beautiful. No one can deny that and winter offers a great excuse to head indoors and absorb the culture of a city. Be it museum, galleries or a local craft shop. Sometimes it is so cold outside you find a cosy spot in a warm café or bar and simply watch the snow fall and the world go by.

Top 10 things to do in New York

New York truly is the city that doesn’t sleep. It can seem almost impossible to do everything, especially if it’s a quick trip. So here are my top 10 things to do in New York City.

Sleep No More.

This has to be one of my favourite activities. Interactive theater without a spoken word. You follow various characters around a multi storey building. Armed with a mask for anonymity and a heightened sense of curiosity you become fully immersed in the story of Macbeth.

http://www.sleepnomore.com/#share

One World Observation Deck.

The view is unequivocally breathtaking. The slogan “See forever” does not lie. There is no other view in Manhattan that can possibly compete.

https://oneworldobservatory.com/

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Staten Island Ferry

A free way to see the Statue of Liberty, and while you are there you can visit…

http://www.siferry.com/

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Snug Harbour- Chinese Scholar’s Garden

Travel back in time, no, travel to another continent. Complete with a Chinese temple, reflection garden and Cherry Blossoms the tranquility of these gardens will take you to another world.

http://snug-harbor.org/

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The High Line

The conversion of an above ground railway has made for an oasis among the concrete jungle. If you are going to do it, walk the whole thing ending in Chelsea. Then you can satisfy your appetite at the Chelsea Markets.

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9/11 Memorial Museum

Less of a tourist attraction and more an opportunity to pay respect. As someone who watched the event unfold live on television I feel obliged to reflect in this space on every visit.

https://www.911memorial.org/museum

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Explore Central Park

Bike is better. Central Park is huge, you will simply cover more ground and when you are finished and worked up an appetite, you can go to Wholefoods in Columbus Circle to get supplies for a picnic in the park.

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Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge

If you visit New York and don’t walk over the Brooklyn Bridge then were you even there? If you are fortunate to be there on a Sunday the Brooklyn Flea Markets are situated in DUMBO. While you are on the Brooklyn side of the East River, wander through Brooklyn Heights Historical District

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Broadway show

The TKTS outlet is the best place to get cheap, last minute tickets.

https://www.tdf.org/nyc/8/Locations-Hours

Visit Bear Mountain

Although not technically within Manhattan or New York City, Bear Mountain is within New York state and about an hours drive out of Manhattan. If you have the time it’s definitely worth getting out of the rat race of the city and taking in some nature.

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Enjoy x

Roman food safari!

It has been a lifelong dream to walk the streets of Italy and eat my body weight in Italian delights. After 28 long years of waiting it finally came true, and boy did Rome deliver! I had heard many stories of how Rome was overpriced (we actually found Rome to be incredibly cheap) and the food less than average, but we did not find this to be true. If the food is less than average in Rome I don’t think my taste buds will be able to handle what is considered good food in Italy. Every single meal, except one, was perfection! The secret…get off the main streets, don’t be afraid of going down a little side street or alley way. Anything on the main streets, and especially those near tourist attractions will be overpriced and below average. Don’t waste your time.

You will want to walk everywhere in Rome, not because you will eat so much (trust me you will!) but because it is so beautiful! So don’t be afraid to wander. You will discover some beautiful architecture and some amazing food while you are at it. We preferred to eat on the go throughout the day and sharing our food meant that we could try twice as much. Rome, although not the birthplace of pizza, has an abundance of little pizza shops where you can buy by the slice or indulge in some arancini on the go. This laneway, near the Pantheon, satisfied our taste buds greatly.

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We stumbled across a family run restaurant on our way back from Castel Saint Angelo- Fattoincasa (or Fatto in Casa to help you remember) on Via del Governo Vecchio . The owners greeted us and all their patrons like family, it was full of Italians (always a plus) and the owners were so helpful and carefree about the odd broken glass and didn’t seem to mind that we wanted to sit there for hours (it was just so cold outside!). After we asked for the bill we were served Limoncello and were sent out the door with chocolate in hand. We had such a positive experience that by the end of the night we felt like family too and went back several times over our stay. The food was to die for with big serving sizes too.

Be adventurous, you won’t be disappointed. Trust me. Just don’t forget to leave room for Gelato though!

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Enjoy x

 

Vienna

We had 4 nights booked in Vienna and I was looking forward to seeing all of their beautiful palaces and gardens but unfortunately I came down with a terribly bad cold the day we arrived. I wanted to catch the train to Vienna from Budapest so I could see a bit of the countryside, it was also a cheaper option that would get us there earlier- with most planes departing Budapest around midday. The first snowfall for the season fell the night before, which serendipitously was also New Years Eve. It was freezing, I’m talking below zero, cannot for the life of you get warm freezing and we had to stand at the train station for an hour waiting for the train at 5am. No surprises that I got ill. By the time we arrived in Vienna my nose had been running like a tap all day and I was exhausted. I was determined to push through and see something of our new destination at least. We caught the train into town and it hadn’t occurred to us that being New Years Day, nothing would be open except a few restaurants. We discovered a cosy little Italian place tucked away in a side street. After lunch that was it, my body was done so we went straight back to the hotel so I could sleep. Day 1 wasted.

Day 2 was even worse, at least the day before I got to see Anker Uhr (Vienna clock) and eat some delicious food. This day I would not leave my bed. The mere thought of getting dressed exhausted me and I couldn’t bear to face the freezing cold in fear of catching pneumonia. I sent my husband out exploring on my behalf. It didn’t seem fair to make him waste his day as well.

By the next day I had felt much better but knew it would still be a short day as my energy hadn’t returned 100%. Thanks to pharmaceuticals I was able to face some of the day. We started on Ringstrasse which loops around the city centre and contains most of Vienna’s famous buildings including the Vienna State Opera, Parliament, University of Vienna and the Mozart Museum which is located in Burggarten on the opposite side of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Art). Snow had fallen the night before which makes Vienna (in fact anywhere for that matter) such a magical place.

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A quick stop at the Chocolate emporium Xocolat, which is located in the stone arches of the Ferstel passage on Freyung, gave me enough energy to cross the river and ride the Wiener Riesenrad (Ferris Wheel) at the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. The amusement park was still open to the public although a lot of the rides had shut due to it being off peak season, which made for this eerie abandoned amusement park feel.

Our last day in Vienna was a visit to Belvedere Palace, a baroque style palace which is now an Art Gallery. The gardens are absolutely spectacular and the Art Gallery well worth a visit.

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Note: Although Vienna is beautiful this time of the year it’s near impossible to find a genuine and decent Mozart concert. I suggest looking at when shows are available and planning your trip around that. There are certainly still shows on at this time but they are nothing compared to the real thing.

Budapest top 5

Admittedly when you wander through Budapest it doesn’t look that great, the remnants of what appears to be a relatively poor Eastern European country; and then occasionally you stumble across pure brilliance. The beautiful remains of a city that was, or could be if it had befallen a different fate. Hungarians are incredibly proud of their city, their history and their culture.

Here are my top 5 things to do in Budapest.

1. Buda Castle/Castle Hill District.

There are a number of ways to make your way to the summit. You can walk up one of the many pathways or steps leading to the top, you can take the funicular, or catch the bus which takes you all the way to top. Castle Hill district is a whole day affair with a number of attractions and restaurants, it’s a free activity that just keeps on giving! We were lucky enough to witness the changing of the guard.

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2. Fisherman’s Bastion.

Just stunning. Enough said. Also on Castle Hill so it makes sense to so this whilst you are visiting the castle.

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3. Gellért Hill/Gellért Thermal Baths

Budapest is full of hills, it’s great exercise. Unfortunately the only bus that will take you to the top of this one is a Hop On Hop Off or tourist bus, otherwise it’s a hike, but a beautiful one at that. There is a metro, Szent Gellért tér which takes you to the famous thermal baths ( a must do!). There is then a path which leads all the way up the hill to the Citadella with plenty of viewpoints along the way for you to rest and take it all in.

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4. Parliament House.

This is a spectacular building, a stunning example of neo-Gothic architecture. Definitely something that stands out on the riverbank. Hungarians believe it to be blessed as a bomb was dropped on it, which didn’t explode, during the war.

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5. Hero’s Square.

This spectacular area has Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest Zoo, Ice skating in winter and the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. You can’t be in Budapest and not visit one of its baths right? Unfortunately as the sun sets so early during winter (around 4pm or so) the lighting wasn’t very good for me to get pictures. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Enjoy.

Amsterdam, I love you!

Amsterdam is my favourite city. There I said it. I wish I could say it was hard to admit as I have such a deep, profound love for New York and Paris; but it’s not hard to say at all. The city is profoundly beautiful and has an engrained sense of ease with the flow of traffic and friendliness of it’s people. As a native English speaker, I found it very easy to communicate with absolutely anyone and everyone. Need directions? No problem, just ask. Need something specific with your food, just ask.

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As the Dutch founded New York City (then known as New Amsterdam) the similarities to the equally  beautiful city is uncanny. Amsterdam is similar to New York in architecture and aesthetics, except Amsterdam is cleaner, friendlier, smaller (thus making it easier to navigate) and less crowded. To say this city is picturesque doesn’t do it justice. It’s a city, just like Paris, that you will very happily explore and “get lost” in for hours. Every bridge is better and more scenic than the last. Every street offers more charm and character than the last. 

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Environmental laws in regards to plastic bags and the cost of cars makes Amsterdam not only a clean city but an incredibly easy to navigate and charismatic one. There are as many bicycles as there are people and they certainly have become synonymous with all that Amsterdam is, among other things of course. 

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A special mention to the hotel we stayed at, Hotel De Hallen. I cannot recommend it enough. Using a 100 year old tram depot building they couldn’t change much so worked around the history of the structure. The result is a modernised retro building which blends together eclectic furniture and sculptures which adds character that no other hotel can offer. Incredibly helpful staff will assist you with anything you need, along with a tram stop only a short walk away as well as a bus which you can take to the airport. There is also a great breakfast place for coffee on the go, called The Breakfast Club. Walk out the hotel doors and head to the left. You can’t miss it.

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New York Itinerary- Day 11 and 12

Day 11 saw us hiring a bike through our hotel (about $5 each for the day) and exploring as much as we could by 6pm. We started early from Central Park and covered a lot of ground. We headed West through Central Park and then south down through Chelsea, Greenwich Village and SoHo, making lot’s of stops along the way to admire beautiful architecture, doorways and blossoming streets. Then we cut straight across to Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge, offering an alternate view to the one we got earlier, although nowhere near as good- it was much less crowded. This allowed us to ride south towards Brooklyn Bridge along the East River.

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Being a Sunday, the Flea Markets were on again and you can bet your bottom dollar that we ate another doughnut. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. I would travel back to New York in a heartbeat just to eat another one. After some time spent at the markets we were back on the bikes and over the Brooklyn Bridge heading back to Manhattan. We went north through the East Village and cut through towards the Hudson River as there is a dedicated bike/pedestrian path that runs along it. Here we headed north enjoying the many New Yorkers out relishing the sunshine and and making use of the copious park lands along the river.

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A quick cut through the Upper West side had us returning the bikes by 5pm. It meant that we could explore and admire the beauty of the Upper East side on foot before dinner. The magnificence that is the Upper East side is enigmatic. There is something illustrious about those that live there.

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Out last day, day 12, was yet another sunny one. We had every intention of jumping back on those bikes again and exploring even more of Manhattan. I love New York because of the architecture, the beauty and history that it entails. It tells a story of a thousand words. I wanted to see more. My legs, on the other hand, wanted a rest. We spent our last day sitting in Central Park enjoying the sunshine and watching the world, and New Yorkers, pass us by; soaking up all that is New York City.

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New York Itinerary- Day 10

Day 10 of our New York trip included a bucket list item, Coney Island. About an hour’s trip by train and we were at the iconic boardwalk and Luna Park.

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There are a number of theme parks situated on the pier. Luna Park operates on a credit system using wristbands. It’s free entry so anyone can wander through and watch the rides but you purchase credit from the ticketing machines which deduct when you walk through the turnstiles.  There were quite a few rides we wanted to go on but we didn’t purchase the right credits so best to look at what rides you want to ride first and then buy the tokens. It was a good day but purchasing the wrong credit package meant we didn’t get the best value for money.

http://www.coneyisland.com/tourist-information

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When you depart the train there are a number of food places, including Nathan’s Famous hotdogs and The Wahlburgers Restaurant. Trust me, do not eat before getting on the rides. I went on one that spun and felt nauseous for the rest of the day. Not a good idea.

http://www.nathansfamous.com/

https://www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com/

Although the weather was particularly cold during our visit (average of 5 degrees Celsius) this was quite a warm day.The jetty had seats which allowed us to lie down and soak up the sun before making the long journey back home again.

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Enjoy x