TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: niagara falls and lake erie

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - niagara falls and lake erieAfter a chilled first day, I woke up at 5am to the sound of bullfrogs and trains. Ahh, the camping life…

As I headed to the toilet, dodging every bullfrog I that I couldn’t see, I looked across the lake and saw the most beautiful sunrise with some mist eerily creeping along it. That was the moment I thought, wow I’m actually in America…

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - sunrisesunrise at finger lakes
linebreakNoisy bullfrogs and sunrises aside, today was the day I could tick off something else on my bucket list – Niagara Falls! Once everyone had swiftly packed up their tents (me and Polly woke up first so we didn’t have to take ours down, score!), and had breakfast, we packed up all our stuff and got into the van for a long drive to the Falls. Along the way we discovered that we would be in small groups and would have chores to do on the trip such as DJing, van cleaning, cooking and washing up. I was paired with Matty and Marc. We also handed over our food kitty money for the first half of the trip – it was so much easier handing it over in one go, rather than dishing out $10 a day!

travel - trekamericas grand trek - niagara falls view of toronto

travel - trekamericas grand trek - niagara falls rainbowtop: toronto, bottom: rainbow on the falls
linebreakWith Luke Bryan’s Country Girl blasting out (soon to become a trek favourite), we all seemed a lot chattier today and couldn’t wait to arrive at Niagara! As soon as we got there Steve took us to Horseshoe Falls before having some lunch. Then it was onto the Maid of the Mist cruise (with some elegant big blue ponchos to match). The views up close on the cruise were incredible, and it was amazing to see the Canadian side of the Falls – all of the buildings looked so futuristic and so different from New York!

travel - trekamerica tour tips- girls at niagara fallsthe girls after the maid in the mist cruise
linebreakAfter getting a tad wet on the cruise (which I would really recommend), we then all walked up to the observation pier, where we took plenty of selfies and got to see the Falls from a different angle.

travel - trekamericas grand trek - up close to niagara fallscloser view of the falls
linebreakOnce we were all selfied out, we said goodbye to Niagara Falls and headed to Walmart. Ahh Walmart… You could literally get lost in that store and possibly never find a way out for days. Me, Marc and Matty were the first one’s chosen to cook so we decided on something simple – fajitas! After we picked up everything that we needed, we then headed to our next campsite, Geneva State Park in Lake Erie!

That night was another quiet and chilled one – we all had some gorgeous teriyaki burgers and tried to light a fire for smores. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going our way so we decided to go to bed, all excited for tomorrow where we would hit Cedar Point!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: finger lakes

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakesAfter two months of waiting and preparing, the day has finally come…

Today was our first day of the trekamerica’s Grand Trek. We all met in the Hotel’s lounge after breakfast where we were introduced to our tour leader for the next 21 days – Steve. (Who later become known as Beer Steve, but more on that later.) After filling out some paperwork and a quick round of introductions, we all packed our luggage into the van and headed to our first stop of the tour – Finger Lakes. I’m not going to lie, the first couple of hours were painfully silent. Maybe we all had a case of pre-trek nerves? (This however, was soon going to change in a couple of days time where the van would be filled with Kirsty’s snoring, the odd dance move and plenty of pranking.)

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - delaware water gapdelaware water gap
linebreakPossibly sensing the deafening silence, Steve made a quick pit stop at Delaware Water Gap for lunch (provided by him, whatta guy.) It was a nice break from the busy streets of New York and to just to sit there and get to know one another. Feeling a little bit better acquainted we all got back into the van and headed to our first campsite – Watkins KOA.

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - camp tentmine and polly’s tent – nantawald
linebreakI was actually really surprised at how fancy this campsite was (I envisioned a festival sort of moment with toilet drops and dodgy showers) – but it even had a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi! After a dishing out of the tents (me and my tent buddy Polly picked Nantawold – oh how we will come to miss that tent in 21 days’ time…) and a demonstration from Steve, we tried our hand at pitching them before heading to winery Pompous Ass.

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - pompous ass wine tastingpompous ass winery
linebreakIf there’s one way to break the ice, it’s wine tasting. We all got to sample a variety of different flavours, and if you liked a particular wine you could buy it with a special one-off price, so naturally me and Polly picked the Riesling. (Es war seht gut!)

After pretending to be top wine connoisseurs, Steve had planned for us to go to the beach and walk near the falls, but unfortunately due to bad weather they were off limits. Instead, sensing that we were beginning to open up with one another after being plied with alcohol, he took us to a liquor store. Me and Polly decided to buy some gin (America’s first fyi – which did last us about 35 out of 43 days of the trip – maybe it lasted so long because it tasted like America’s first gin) before heading back to the campsite.

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - camp life

travel - trekamerica the grand trek - day 1 fingerlakes - camp foodtop: our first family meal, bottom: bbq chicken with asparagus & salad
linebreakAs Steve was cooking tea (a yummy bbq with asparagus – this was the start of healthy cooked meals we had the entire trip), all of the girls decided to have a bounce around on a giant inflatable pillow (yes, you read that correctly) before chilling in the pool. Once we all had tea, we then played a few drinking games before heading to bed.

It was such a good first night of the trip! And everyone seemed so excited to head to our next destination – Niagara Falls and Lake Erie!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – topdeck’s europe express: rhine valley

travel - topdeck europe express day 8 rhine valleyAfter a night of exploring Munich, we packed up our suitcases and headed onto the coach so we could visit our next stop; Rhine Valley.

Famous for its beautiful landscapes and ‘romantic setting’, Germany’s Rhine Valley region was a quaint and picturesque place. We had the option of taking a cruise along the Rhine, where we all got a free drink (I tried the Riesling, naturally), and despite the overcast weather we still had majestic views!

travel - topdeck europe express day 8 rhine valley - view
travel - topdeck europe express day 8 rhine valley - tourist trainAfter the cruise, we headed into town and stopped off at a cuckoo clock shop to hear how they were made and to have a look around. As touristy as it was, it was so cool to see so many cuckoo clocks in once place! They also had plenty of other souvenirs – I got some Schnapps for Ali and an authentic Stieff bear for his nan. We then walked across to the stein shop for a stein demonstration – Topdeck even have their own stein for people to buy there!
travel - topdeck europe express day 8 rhine valley - cuckoo shopAfter exploring the Rhine, we were all pretty tired and wanted to head to the hostel – but this wasn’t just any old hostel we would be staying in tonight – nope, it was a 12th century castle! It looked like it was just taken out of a fairytale! As nice as the castle was, it was in a very remote place so there was nothing really to do but play drinking games in the boys room to pass the time. Also the shower cubicles were see-through. (Luckily we had all gotten to know each other pretty well up until this point, so it was a case of having a buddy to hold a towel over the door to keep your modesty in tact!) Despite the shower situation, our stay in the Rhine was an amazing experience, and something to tick off the ol’ bucket list!

After a great couple of days in Germany, it was time for the place everyone had been looking forward to going this whole trip – Amsterdam!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – topdeck’s europe express: munich

travel - topdeck europe express day 7 munichAfter a sombre experience at Dachau, we arrived into Munich – just in time to check into the hostel and explore the city!

Our hostel, the A & O Hackerbruecke, was just a short walk away from the city centre – which was perfect considering we only had the night to explore Munich! After we dropped our bags off, Marshall took us on a little walking tour to Marienplatz to see the famous Glockenspiel. The photo below doesn’t do it justice – it was such a beautiful clock tower! We then headed to Am Platz to visit popular beer hall; Hofbrauhaus!

travel - topdeck europe express day 7 munich - glockenspiel

travel - topdeck europe express day 7 munich - beer hausUnfortunately when we got there, the Hofbrauhaus was so busy and packed (it also happened to be one of Munich’s most famous beer halls), that a few of us decided to wander around and find somewhere else to eat instead. After scanning various restaurants we came across quaint cafe Am Marienplutz. With quirky decor and a variety of food on offer, we were all really happy with our choice. I went for a ‘traditional Bavarian meal’ – Hanover beef with potato rossi and sauerkraut in a rich beef sauce. The portion sizes were massive, and it was so filling! But it was absolutely delicious!

travel - topdeck europe express day 7 munich - traditional bavarian food

As nice as our short time was in Munich, it would of been amazing to have spent more time there! However, saying that, I would definitely come back!

After our meal, we then headed back to the hostel to have an early night – as tomorrow we would be on our way to the Rhine Valley!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek instagram snaps week five

travel - grand trek insta snaps week five

Week five and after our amazing stay in Monument Valley (and seeing a beautiful sunrise), it’s time to hit New Mexico and Texas!

santa fe - cocktails and townSanta Fe: cocktails / the town centre

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amarillo - spray painting cadillacs and dinner at a texan steakhouseAmarillo: spray painting at a Cadillac ranch / Dinner at the Big Texan Steakhouse

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austin - greetings from austin and texas state capitolAustin: Greetings from Austin art / Texas State Capitol

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On the way to our campsite at Santa Fe, our trek leader Morgan took us see the beautiful badlands to have our lunch. It was a pretty cool sight – and so different to Badlands National Park which we saw on the Northern Trail! Afterwards, we arrived at the campsite, set up our tents and headed to the Plaza! Santa Fe is such a beautiful city (it’s meant to be one of the oldest cities in America), and it was such a shame that we didn’t have a lot of time there. But not to fret, as the next stop was the USA’s biggest state – Texas! We were on our way to Amarillo, home of the Big Texan Steakhouse (and a 72oz steak), where we had an amazing steak dinner. We also stopped off at a Cadillac ranch to graffiti some Cadillacs – safe to say we definitely left our mark! Then it was onto Austin – the home of live music and great nightlife! Me and a few others went to see Jurassic World Park at a very old school cinema (hello tables and service!), before having a night on the town! Despite a thunderstorm in Amarillo (yep, the rain’s still following us), I have had so much fun so far! New Orleans, here I come!

Stay up to date with all the latest goings-on with my USA trip on instagram – @sazwatson.

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – my usa bucket list

travel - my usa bucket list

As today marks the first day of my trekamerica trip, I thought that I would share with you guys my USA bucket list.

new york citytravel - my usa bucket list new york city
The concrete jungle where dream are made of. New York has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. The bright lights of Times Square, the spectacular skyline view from the Empire State Building and sailing near the famous Statue of Liberty are all things that I’m excited to tick off.

los angelestravel - my usa bucket list los angeles
Home of Hollywood’s finest, a visit to LA has been imprinted on my brain ever since I saw The Hills. From a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame to hitting Venice Beach, I can’t wait to get my so-cal vibe on when we land in LA.

grand canyontravel - my usa bucket list grand canyon
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is another place I can’t wait to visit. I’m probably gonna be one of those people who take 83922 photos of it, but hey, it is a natural wonder after all!

las vegastravel - my usa bucket list las vegas
The city that never sleeps… One minute I’ll be next to the Eiffel Tower and the next I’ll be taking a selfie in front of an Egyptian pyramid. If that’s not already enough to make me giddy, there’s always the nightlife and the Bellagio fountains.

new orleanstravel - my usa bucket list new orleans
We will always have Bourbon Street. And voodoo, swamps and of course gumbo. From the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter to a cooking class, NOLA is another place on I can’t wait to tick off my wish list.

Keep up to date with my American adventure on instagram – @sazwatson.

What’s on your travel bucket list?
[Images are from google]

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – york: a mini guide

travel - york a mini guideLast weekend me and my friend Megan visited York to sample the food, history and the local nightlife.

I’ve only ever been to York twice; the first time, was to see the Jorvik Viking Centre (on a school trip), and the second time was to see my friend who went to uni there (needless to say, there was very little sightseeing), so this weekend was the perfect opportunity to experience everything York had to offer whilst on a budget.

stay

travel - york mini guide - the old vic guest house sign

travel - york mini guide - the old vic guest house bedroom

For a change of scenery, we decided to book a local guest house near the city centre and chose The Old Vic Guest House on Wenlock Terrace for £70 per night, per person. We loved our twin room – the interior was so nice – however we were a little disappointed with the distance of the Guest House. Their website stated they were only a 10 minute walk from the city centre, but unfortunately it took us 20 minutes to get there (and we’re fast walkers), and we were also taken aback by their dog which we didn’t expect. (I like dogs, but was surprised that this wasn’t mentioned on the website). Despite this, their full English breakfast was amazing – the portion size was huge and was very delicious and filling!

visityork minstertravel - york mini guide - york minster

cliffords towertravel - york mini guide - cliffords tower

Two places I couldn’t recommend to visit more are York Minster (only a stone’s throw away from the high street) and Clifford’s Tower. Megan, having been to York before, recommended the city sightseeing hop on hop off bus. For £8 (we cheekily got student discount with my old uni card), we not only got to see the sights but learnt the history of York too. I would definitely recommend the bus, especially on a sunny day!

york high streettravel - york mini guide - clock

travel - york mini guide - tudor decor

the cat gallerytravel - york mini guide - the cat gallery 1

travel - york mini guide - the cat gallery 2

As we were shopping on the high street for some bits and pieces for our nights out, we came across The Cat Gallery on Low Petergate. As a massive cat fan (I own three), I just had to go inside and have a look! It was a cat lover’s paradise, with many books, cat toys and souvenirs – including the cutest Grumpy Cat teddy bears! If you’re a fellow cat fan, this place is a must-visit!

eatthe slug and lettucetravel - york mini guide - slug and lettuce

travel - york mini guide - slug and lettuce smoked salmon flatbread with avocado

One place we ate was the Slug and Lettuce. Now I know it’s a franchise, however the decor alone is worth the visit! With colourful tables, chairs and wine glasses hanging from the ceiling, this is one Slug and Lettuce you would love to be seen in! I had a very healthy smoked salmon flatbread with avocado and sweet potato fries, whilst Megan went for a smothered chicken and fries.

all bar onetravel - york mini guide - all bar one decor

travel - york mini guide - all bar one table

Unfortunately it wasn’t all lovely weather in York, and on Friday afternoon it absolutely poured it down! We took shelter in All Bar One on New Street and bought a soft drink and chatted. Like the Slug and Lettuce, All Bar One looked amazing on the inside (as you can see, hanging glasses from the ceiling is probably a trademark in York), and it was nice to hang out, catch up and hide from the rain.

experiencea walk down the rivertravel - york mini guide - walk along the river

travel - york mini guide - ducks by the river

With two routes into the city centre from our Guest House, we opted for a walk down the river which was a breathtaking experience. It almost felt like we were in the countryside and even came across the local residents – ducks!

travel - york mini guide - bettys tearooms sign

travel - york mini guide - bettys tearooms bakery

travel - york mini guide - bettys tearooms gift shop

travel - york mini guide - bettys tearooms table

travel - york mini guide - bettys tearooms banana milkshake, homemade lemonade and a swiss chocolate torte with fresh cream

One place which was on our hitlist was Betty’s Tearooms. Probably one of the most famous tearooms in Yorkshire, we were eager to see if Betty’s lived up to its expectations. We did have to queue, but boy was it worth it! We were seated by the window (the perfect place to people watch), and decided what we were having. Megan went for a banana milkshake, whereas I fancied some homemade lemonade and a Swiss chocolate torte with fresh cream. Megan loved hers and said that her milkshake tasted just like ice cream, and my homemade lemonade was refreshing. We both left with smiles on our faces and agreed that queuing at Betty’s was definitely worth the wait!

the nightlifetravel - york mini guide - sunset

I’m not gonna lie, one of the main reasons for our visit to York was the nightlife, and it’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint! We bar-hopped and finished our last night in Yates – so classy I know, but definitely not regrettable! Overall we had an amazing time in York, and I cannot wait for my next adventure there!

Have you been to York before? What were your highlights?

sigyhl

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