Monday, 8 April 2019

Flying to the West Coast - Los Angeles

Following our previous trip to America in 2017, we have quickly become obsessed with America and doing trips where we visit multiple locations. That meant that we had to book up to now go and see what the West Coast had to offer. To be honest, I think I was more excited about this trip than the last because of how amazing the first one was.

For this one, I got back on Skyscanner and scoured the website for great flight prices and times that would fit with the time we could get off from work. Once I'd manipulated our schedule within an inch of its life, we had our final itinerary. This was a big trip as it would be Matt's 30th Birthday when we were out there. First stop L.A, second stop Las Vegas and finishing up in San Francisco. Literally typing that makes me smile and want to desperately go back ASAP. I should add, we had one special item that we had to fit into the schedule and what made finalising our schedule so difficult, we were adamant that we'd make it to UFC 229. If you're into MMA at all, you'll know that this was a massive card for UFC in which Connor McGregor was defeated by the Eagle, Khabib Nurmagomedov. So with the dates boxed in, we awaited our first flight to L.A.

If you've grown up as a 90s child like me, you know that L.A featured in a lot of the TV programmes of our generation. I'm thinking Beverley Hills 90210, The OC and The Hills. We were finally going to step foot in the places that these iconic shows were filmed. For our stay in L.A we got our first Airbnb, and what a precious, amazing and fantastically located one it was. We stayed near West Hollywood, close to Fairfax and Melrose, and we couldn't have picked a better spot. We were right next to The Grove which had some great shops and restaurants as well as a TRADER JOE'S (can you tell I was excited about this) and a Whole Foods.

Our little Airbnb was basically someone's garage that they had converted but it was away from the main house and had lots of privacy. It had a bed and lounge area, a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen area too. Everything you need for a short stay and our host was super nice.

So what did we do whilst we were in L.A?

On the first night we got there, we did exactly as I had planned - went to THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY. If you know me, you know I love food, especially anything faddy that I will have probably seen other American's eating on Youtube. The Cheesecake Factory was definitely one of these places. The food didn't really live up to the hype, but oh wow, the cheesecake certainly did. I got some sort of heavenly smores one and it took me two days to eat because it was so sickly sweet.

After we ate, I obviously insisted we went to Trader Joe's. I watch too many American's on Youtube and they always go to Trader Joe's and talk about the amazing stuff they get here, so I really really wanted to go. It was everything I dreamed of and more and I did not get to spend enough time there. We picked up some cereal and on another trip there I got some funky Mexican salsa (that I then had to pack three times over as we went between locations - clearly a great idea...).

The next day we went hiking up to the Griffith Observatory so we could pretend to be in Charlies Angels 2 (or maybe not). It was a short hike but it gave your amazing views of the city and you could even see the Hollywood sign - probably the closest we got to it all trip.

The next day was pretty cool as we decided to spend our morning in Beverley Hills (you bet the Weezer song was in my head whilst we were there) and we spent an extortionate amount of money on candles and fitness gear. We also got attacked by a GIANT bug whilst eating our lunch which was pretty horrific.

However, after this, we took an Uber to Hollywood Boulevard to see Jimmy Kimmel Live! If you are going to L.A and want something free and totally unique to do, I definitely recommend trying to get tickets to a TV show filming like this. I realised we could do this a week or so before and was lucky enough to get tickets to the one we wanted in which we saw RYAN FREAKING GOSLING and Dana White (UFC President - very apt for our trip). There aren't many people allowed in for each taping so you feel so close to the guests. It's definitely a great experience.

Then on our final day in L.A, we decided it was time to head to the beach. Get the real West Coast experience. We got an Uber to Santa Monica, which I might add was super easy, and then we had a good old wander. Took in the pier, the beach and the shops. Had taco's on National Taco Day on the seafront and then took ourselves on a walk down the coast to Venice Beach. We kind of which we hadn't as it made us feel quite on edge. I wouldn't recommend it really, if I did it again, I'd stay in Santa Monica.

Overall our trip to L.A was so incredible, made better by our fantastic Airbnb and the use of Ubers - they are a must in America. As I'm having such a great time reliving this trip, I will be looking to write up the other two destinations on our trip, Las Vegas and San Francisco - and maybe a couple of hints and tips posts. Hope you enjoyed the read!

Sunday, 25 November 2018

When in Atlanta, Georgia - Travelling in America

Atlanta Georgia Travel Walking Dead Skyline

It’s over a year now since we stepped foot in Atlanta. A place we weren’t planning on going but stumbled across it in a bid to go to another Southern destination. Thinking back now, I actually can’t remember what made our minds up about visiting but it was another great stop on our trip to America last year.

Atlanta is a big place and it’s not really your typical tourist location like New York or New Orleans but it does have some good places to visit and interesting things to see.

We’d booked tickets to go to an NFL game whilst in Atlanta and this was certainly a highlight. I didn’t know what to expect going into it as I had heard the games were long and to be honest I didn’t really get what was going on most of the time. The day before the game we wandered to the Mercedes Benz Stadium where the Falcons play and it was epic. First of all, it was enormous, second it was all new and modern and third it was just a breathtaking place to be. It definitely got me excited for the game.

The next day the stadium was packed. Floods of people arrived in red Atlanta jerseys and blue Miami Dolphins jerseys. It was a fantastic atmosphere. The opening of the game had us hyped for the next three hours with cheerleaders, music, video and pyrotechnics. There was always something going on throughout the time we were there to keep the audience engaged and when Atlanta scored, it was very exciting. Just a shame it was a low scoring game and at the end, the Dolphins took the win!

Atlanta Falcolns NFL Mercedes Benz Stadium Football Game
Atlanta Falcolns NFL Mercedes Benz Stadium Football Game
Atlanta Falcolns NFL Mercedes Benz Stadium Football Game
Atlanta Falcolns NFL Mercedes Benz Stadium Football Game

A gem of a find we came across whilst wandering around Atlanta was Ponce City Market. Here there were lots of shops and places to eat as well as on the top floor rides and carnival games. We had a look in the daytime and decided to come back on the night to really experience all it had to offer.

What was great about PCM was that you put money on a special card that you could top up whilst you were there and then whatever you wanted to eat, drink or do, you just swiped this card. We had some drinks, played lots of games and won cuddly toys and had a go on the different rides as well as a game of crazy golf. This was all against a stunning backdrop of Atlanta at night.

Ponce City Market Atlanta Georgia America The Roof Travel
Ponce City Market Atlanta Georgia America The Roof Travel
Ponce City Market Atlanta Georgia America The Roof Travel
Atlanta Halloween House Decorations, Georgia America
Atlanta Georgia Centennial Olympic Park America

These were the two highlights of our time in Atlanta although we did also visit Centennial Olympic Park, visited the World of Coca-Cola (wouldn’t recommend) and got to see lots of houses dressed up for Halloween! If you are stopping by Atlanta for a few days, I’d definitely make sure it’s when Atlanta are playing at home and get yourself to Ponce City Market.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Getting crafty at the Make and Mend Festival

I've always thought of myself as quite a creative person; trying to find the best solution to a problem or making something look pretty. Although I wasn't really into crafts when I was younger, as I've grown up and got my own space, I'm always keen to do a bit of D.I.Y. Last month, I was invited to go along to the first-ever Make and Mend Festival, set up by two lovely ladies with a passion for creativity and mindfulness.

Held at Preston Hall Museum, the event brought together craft lovers from across the Tees Valley to take part in a number of workshops where we created some gorgeous and hand-crafted goodies. We were down on the morning to take advantage of the three different workshops we'd been booked on to. First up was glass engraving held in a classroom down the Victorian Street.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Glass Etching
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Glass Etching

Led by Bloom in Art, the class allowed each participant to make either a pendant or a key ring. We each had to think of something that meant a lot to us, or that we want to be reminded of on a daily basis. I chose to etch 'Explore', as I love to travel and I want to do it a lot more. The process involved adding sticker stencils to you piece of glass, covering it in an acid paste and leaving it for around 15 minutes until the glass around your stencil had gone cloudy and your words remain clear and smooth. Once the acid was washed off, it revealed your design and we followed this up by drilling out a hole to then attach to our chosen fixing.

It was a very creative class which involved mediums I'd never used and methods I had never done. Although it was great to create my key ring, I don't think I'll be breaking in glass etching anytime soon. 

After this, we had some lunch from The Sitting Room in Guisborough's pop-up stall. They offered a number of gorgeous salads to be accompanied by meat or halloumi. I chose the tabbouleh with bulgar wheat, tomato, onion, parsley and mint, and the spicy tomato, onion and chickpea salad with a side of grilled halloumi and a dollop of mint yoghurt. It was so delicious and filling. I followed this up with a cheeky brownie but I ate this too quick to snap a picture.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton The Sitting Room Guisborough

After our lunch, we had a little bit of time before our next session which we used to wander around and have a nosy at what everyone else was doing. A few of the classes we spotted were brush lettering, floral painting and papercutting which all looked very interesting. Our second class of the day was embroidery which was led by Make and Mend's own Rachel. We all had the chance to embroider our own hoop which was pre-marked out with the words 'choose happy'. Rooting through Rachel's box of threads, all of our hoops came out very different due to the varied colours we chose. As I'd already done a bit of embroidery, this was familiar to me but it was great to be able to do more and practise the stitches I'd already learnt.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton Embroidery

The final class of the day took place in the conservatory which was unfortunately like a sauna as it was an extremely hot day. Nevertheless, we got stuck into making terrariums with Hoes & Ditches. As I'm not very green-fingered, it was great to have the chance to put together my terrarium adding stones, soil, picking the plants I wanted and then adding the finishing touches with pebbles and moss. I was really proud of my final effort which wasn't as hard to put together as I first thought.

Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton terrarium
Make and Mend Festival Preston Park Hall Museum Craft Teesside Stockton terrarium

I was extremely pleased to have been invited along to Make and Mend festival to try out all the exciting classes. There was a great turnout of advanced crafters and beginners, all wanting to learn new skills. Holding this in Preston Hall Museum was a fantastic idea and the venue worked wonderfully for what they needed. This was the first event that Make and Mend had run, and I'm hopeful they will organise others so I can try more crafts. If you want to keep up to date with Make and Mend, see if they decide to run further events or purchase one of their craft kits, follow them on Facebook or keep an eye on their website.

© gingerbread smiles.

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