Megabus launches new hop-on-hop-off tour buses in London

Back in my youth I chose to stay at home to attend university but that didn't stop me from taking advantage of friends who had moved away to study. I ventured to Leeds, Sheffield and Brighton over the years to drink WKD in grimy student clubs and I always took the Megabus. It was a lifesaver for a poor uni student who only worked in Next on the weekend. Even as I got older I was still a loyal user, choosing to visit Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol on the bus. Once you're used to paying £2 return, you never really can justify the extortionate train prices. So when an email from Megabus dropped into my inbox to invite me to try out their new hop-on-hop-off bus trips in the capital. I'd never got round to taking an open-top tour of London despite living 30 minutes away and working in the city because they've always been so expensive and my dad has been a pretty good tour guide over the years. But Megabus have introduced sightseeing tours starting from a staggering £1 plus booking fee. Incredible right?!

You'll be taken on a two hour tour around London whilst taking in over 50 of the incredible sights. You can choose to get on at three different stops, including the London Eye, Tower Hill and Park Lane hotel. They run every hour so you won't ever have to wait too long to hop on a bus.

I was lucky to have an exclusive ride on the tour on the day we had the glorious heatwave in London. It couldn't have been a more perfect evening to be riding around in an open-top bus. As with all sightseeing buses, we had a running commentary throughout the journey of the different facts about the city. I always think I know everything there is about London but it seems I don't as there was quite a few tidbits that were brand new!

Thank you so much to Megabus for such a lovely evening and I'd definitely recommend it. The price just can't be beaten!


Hotel review: POD Times Square, New York City, U.S.A

When I was looking for a hotel in New York I had a few things on my list I needed to be ticked. It has to be in Manhattan, near Times Square and come in at under £900 for a week. Surprisingly this Wishlist was pretty hard to fill. Then I came across POD. Located just two blocks from Times Square on Broadway, the compact hotel had only opened earlier this year so was offering discounted rooms. We managed to score a double room for around £840 which sounds pretty expensive but it was one of the cheapest we could find in the location we desired.

I've described it as an American version of our budget travel lodges but I feel like this might be giving it a slight disservice. The rooms are pretty compact which didn't bother us in the slightest as we literally just used it as a place to sleep. But I imagine it would be slightly annoying if you had planned on chilling out a lot more in the hotel room. The bed was pretty comfortable, the TV had a great array of channels to choose from and the view was so quintessential NYC. Admittedly there wasn't really enough space to store our belongings but we made do and got round it in the end. I loved waking up to such an incredible view of the skyline.

They put on a complimentary breakfast consisting of plain bagels, coffee and croissants served at 7.30am which is great if you had an early start. They also put on neighbourhood walks which are advertised in reception. The concierge helped us booked a couple of seats on a minibus to the airport as we had an early flight - a great way to take the hassle out of getting public transport. All in all, POD was a great choice for visiting NYC and was absolutely perfect. I'd definitely stay there again if I find myself in the city once more.


Five resources I use to plan a holiday

If I'm honest I think I may actually prefer planning a holiday than actually going on holiday. I spend months planning each little detail from where to eat, drink and what to see. I pride myself on trying to find things that are a little different to the normal 'tourist trail'. I've had a few people ask me where I find all my inspiration so here are the top five resources I look to when I'm planning a trip. Beware - they also help to add 100 more different cities, towns and countries to your travel wish list!

1. Guide books
Every time I book a trip away, I always make sure I buy a guidebook. I swear by Lonely Planet and have a pretty extensive collection now. I've never had a bad meal from one of the restaurants suggested and the sights they recommend have always been spot on. They're so great to always have in your backpack to refer to as you seek out a new city. Other brands I love are Wallpaper and 500 Hidden Secrets of.... I try to buy a book based on the entire country and a more relevant one of the city I'm visiting. I don't really like the pocket guides as I don't think they have enough information in for my liking.

2. The Guardian
I'm obsessed with the Guardian travel section and have picked many of the hotels I've stayed in because of this website. I read it weekly and really enjoy the reader travel tips. They often bring new-to-me cities and countries that I would never have thought of visiting. The Malaysian one has been fantastic for helping me plan my trip to the country next February. It's such a great mix of travel inspiration and interesting travel news. It has a good selection of places to visit in the U.K too, so it's a brilliant source of information if you're planning a staycation.

3. Instagram
Ah I'm a sucker for visiting somewhere that I've seen on Instagram. I usually use this more for restaurant recommendations rather than places. Every now and again I'll have a browse through the travel Instagrammers I follow and save some restaurant recommendations - in case I ever find myself in that city! I also use it to look at restaurants I've found in my guide books. Quite often if you then click on the user, they will have been in other restaurants in the are so you'll then find even more options. I don't always go for ones that make a good picture, I try to look out for ones that look like they sell amazing local food. I'm more likely to save it if it's been snapped by locals rather than just tourists. One giveaway is if the caption is in the language of the country rather than in English.

4. Conde Nast Traveler
Despite being high end, Conde Nast does have some cracking budget hotel articles such as The U.K's best country pubs with rooms and Affordable hotels in Europe. I think I have placed every single hotel on my travel wish list. The website is really good for United States inspiration with so many cool and quirky towns and cities to browse. Quite often places, you would never have thought off but after reading about them you're so desperate to visit. Don't forget to check out the city breaks section either.

5. Blogs
Last but not least are blogs! I've really gone off of the over-styled, luxury travel blogs as I can't afford to live that lifestyle and they just seen all generic. I feel like most of the places they write about could be anywhere in the world, they all look the same. I feel they just wouldn't help me make the most of a country - I go on holiday to take a break from the norm at home. If I'm visiting somewhere new I want to go where the locals go and get out of my comfort zone. One of my pet hates is bumping into English people abroad or being surrounded by Brits. Says the girl who is actually going to Magaluf this year... Anyway I digress. Instead I'm loving the bloggers who visit places out of the ordinary, have down-to-earth writing and often stay in an AirBnB or affordable hotels. A few of my favourites at the moment include Vicky Flip Flop, Lost Without Purpose, Megan Starr and On The Luce.

How do you plan a holiday?


Things to do in NYC: Hop on, hop off ferry cruise

As much as I love exploring places 'off the beaten track' when I visit places, I'm also a sucker for all the traditional tourist fun. So I was very excited to do the Hop on, Hop Off cruise pass with Isango*. We did have a combo ticket with entrance to the observation deck at the One World Trade Centre but there was some confusion at the pier ticket office. I asked to redeem my ticket and they said I didn't need to but yet when I went to the observation deck, they told me I wasn't allowed on as it had to be redeemed back at the pier. Sadly we had a dinner reservation so we didn't have time to go back to redeem the ticket. It's something to keep in mind if you take the tour, be persistent that you definitely need to redeem all tickets at the pier. But all confusion aside, my mum and I had a great afternoon on the ferry.

Valid for 24 hours, we picked it up from Pier 79 on West 44th Street in Midtown for our 90 minute New York City Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour with cruise and one world observatory admission. We didn't have time to do one of the New York Bus Tours. The tour guide was brilliant and very informative. Originally hailing from Queens, his knowledge of the city was second to none and we both found out some cool new facts. As we cruised along the water, we got to see the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Bridge and an incredible view of the skyline. We took the full 90 minute round trip tour without hopping off first and then we stayed on it until it arrived at Pier 11 in the financial district. Make sure you let the desk know if you plan on hopping on and off as they do something special to you ticket to allow you too.

If it's your first time to NYC then I would definitely recommend the tour as you get to see so much in a short amount of time. Perfect if you only have a long weekend in the city. Even though I had seen most of the sights before, it was still interesting as I found out new things. Thanks for having us on the trip Isango!


Exploring the United States: 9/11 Memorial & Museum, New York City, U.S.A

I remember the day of 9/11 so clearly and vividly. I was at school and my form tutor called us in for registration, she put the telly on and we all watched transfixed as the first plane flew into the World Trade Centre. There was murmurs around that it was a freak accident and then the second plane flew into the second tower. The whole room went so silent you could hear a pin drop at the sudden realisation that this wasn't an accident. It was deliberate attack. I remember staring at the scenes on the telly feeling so confused and bewildered, unsure at what was happening but knowing deep down that things were about to change.

I was in two minds about visiting the 9/11 Memorial & Musuem* in New York. Unlike many museums and memorials I've visited, the events of 9/11 were ones I've lived through. I saw the images on television of the towers coming down and experienced the aftermath of the effect it had on the world. I selfishly didn't know if I was able to see that. But friends had mentioned that it was one of the most moving things they saw during their trip and it was a must-see. So I decided take the plunge and see it for myself.

Similar to my Auschwitz visit, it was draining. I felt myself on the verge of tears the entire time in the museum. You aren't allowed to take photos in certain parts of the museum, such as the Memorial Exhibition and Historical Exhibition, and rightly so. I saw people taking smiling selfies outside with the memorial and it didn't sit right with me. Reading eyewitness accounts of watching people jumping to their deaths, listening to the answering phone messages people had left on the phones of firefighters they knew were attending the scene, seeing the missing posters loved ones had frantically put up and seeing the destroyed fire engine that arrived first on the scene was so tough. But it was also in a way nice to remember how people came together on that fateful day. It was a day for both the worse and the best of humanity. 

If you're debating about if you should visit the 9/11 Musuem and Memorial, then add it to your list. Yes it's hard to witness but it's such an important part of history and triggered so many things. It triggered events we're still dealing to today. It's absolutely wonderfully curated and is a really heart-wrenching experience that shouldn't be missed.


Photo diary: Returning to New York City

After I came back from New York City in 2014, I always vowed to go back but never really thought it would happen. After all, the world is a big place and there's still so many places I want to tick off my list in the United States or even the world. But my mum starting floating around the idea and when I spotted bargain flights - I'm talking £323! - come up, I decided to do what all sensible people do when in the process of buying a house. I bought the flights.

My mum had never ventured over to America let alone to NYC so I was excited to show her all the places I loved eating, the sights that took my breath away and show her the places of my stories. A week flew by in a blink of an eye and even now it feels like a bit of a dream. It was so cool to see it through her new eyes and she took in all in.

After a long winded process through immigration, we hopped in a cab to our hotel just off Times Square and began to explore the city. It was every bit as grimy, loud, fabulous and intoxicating as I remembered. We laughed until we cried, ate until we fell sick, talked until our throats were sore and walked until we thought our feet were about to fall off. It was so great to experience it with my mum especially as I don't see her every day like I used too. Of course we bickered relentlessly, mostly over me working her to the bone and making her walk for miles. But she did encourage me to take a slower pace and I came back feeling a lot more relaxed than I expected too. Secretly I think I was pretty glad to be in bed by 7pm each night, watching Pretty Woman, eating strawberry M&Ms and drinking canned mango margaritas from the 7/11.

The Meatpacking district is still my favourite part of the city and I fell completely in love with parts of Brooklyn. I'm so happy I got to tick the Brooklyn Bridge off my list this time and seeing the Big Apple in the snow was so magical. Although I think I'm still warming up from the rickshaw ride around Central Park in six inches of snow... I'm hoping I won't leave it another four years until I'm back again.

A day in Williamsburg, New York City

Last time I went to New York we just ran out of time to visit Brooklyn so this time it was high on my list of things I wanted to tick off. We got up early and headed to the Williamsburg Bridge to make the trek across the water. After a 20 minute leisurely stroll, we made it into Williamsburg and made a beeline for some brunch to fill our empty bellies.

A quick five minute walk from the Brooklyn end of the bridge is Rabbit Hole. Offering a brunch menu until late afternoon, the cute little restaurant wouldn't look out of place in east London. With exposed brick walls and quirky chandeliers, it's a hipster's paradise. I imagine it will be a great little spot once the weathers starts to warm up thanks to the cute outside garden. I opted for their eggs Benedict served on an American biscuit instead of the traditional English muffin I'm used it. It was delicious although it could have had a little more hollandaise sauce. After we've stuffed our faces we made for Bedford Avenue - the main strip in the district.

The south Williamsburg road is full of independent coffee shops, enticing bars, quirky shops and endless restaurants, just waiting to be discovered. We really enjoyed taking our time and wandering in and out of the different shops. We stopped at a French-inspired bakery called Fabienes for a pastry and a hot drink to help hide us from the cold. The apple pie was delicious!

After refuelling, we took a stroll towards East River State Park. We didn't stay long as the wind was ferocious but definitely pack some snacks, take advantage of the picnic tables and set up shop here if you visit during the warmer weather. This waterfront park offers some incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

I fell completely head over heels for Williamsburg and I'm definitely going to base myself there for my next trip to the city. I adored the vibe and it has great transport links to Manhattan - although I think they might be closing the L train next year to help repair the line after it suffered damage during Hurricane Sandy. So bear this in mind! It's one place I know I'm definitely going to return too.


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