Vietnam: Halong Bay & Hanoi

About Vietnam

Vietnam is a southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its bustling cities, picturesque beaches and vivid history. Hanoi is the capital city and at its heart is the old quarter where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade amongst the french colonial architecture. Halong bay in northeast Vietnam is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rain forests. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994.

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Getting there

You can fly from Dublin to Hanoi however we flew from Manila which was only a 3 hour flight. When we got to Hanoi we had organised a car to drive us straight to Halong Bay. We arrived at 5 am and absolutely fell into the bed in our hotel. We stayed in Halong Bay for 3 nights and got the same car back to Hanoi where we stayed for 3 nights before flying home.

 

Accommodation

Halong Bay is absolutely filled to the brim with hotels however there’s not much else there in the the city itself. Looking back, I would recommend anyone to just go down to do the boat tour and then leave again. We stayed in the Halong Palace Hotel and it was fab but the restaurants were expensive inside the hotel and there is not much around in Halong itself. We stayed a night on the Castaway boat tour which was great craic. Then in Hanoi we stayed in the Splendid Boutique Hotel in the old quarter it was very small but clean and in the perfect location.

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Halong Palace Hotel

What we did

  • The Halong Bay Castaway tour. We did the two day one night trip and to be honest it was enough. It includes kayaking and free alcohol so what’s not to love?
  • Visit Hoàn Kiêm Lake and Ngoc Son in Hanoi.
  • Explore the Old Quater.
  • Visit the Dong Xuan Market.
  • Hoan Kiem Bia Hoi. This is the street bar scene in the old quater where you can sit and drink some of the cheapest beer in the world. A bottle will cost about 15 cent.
  • See the Long Bien bridge over the red river.

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Hoan Kiem Lake
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The red bridge at Hoan Kiem Lake

Food

Halong Bay:       Halong Palace Hotel
1958 restaurant
Café Nam Phong
Hon Gai restaurant
Hanoi:                 Hanoi Taco Bar
Marvellous hotel
Splendid boutique hotel
Giang Cafe (try the Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
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Egg Coffee
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Honestly, I wish we had more time in Vietnam to explore the rest of the country such as Sapa and Nha Trang but I guess that just means we will have to go back lol. It is such a beautiful country filled with an immense amount of culture and history so if you plan of travelling through Asia put Vietnam on your list!

Mini Mint x

 

Palawan: The Philippines

About Palawan
Palawan is one of the largest islands in the Philippines however over half is completely undeveloped. It has been voted the world’s most beautiful island in 2013 and 2015 and they weren’t exaggerating. It is without a doubt the most beautiful and breathtaking place I have ever been and would 110% recommend putting it on your bucket list.
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Getting there
From Ireland it is a big journey. We had already been in Boracay (another island in the Philippines) so we flew on a little 20 seater plane from Boracay to El Nido direct which took an hour. We flew with Air Swift which is a tiny airline that only flies to El Nido. AirSWIFT has daily flights from El Nido to Manila, Boracay and Cebu. El nido is a group of islands located in the north of Palawan and we stayed there for a week.
Accomodation
We stayed in a hostel called “Spin Designer Hostel” which I definitely will not be recommending to anyone. We were given a towel each on arrival which was so damp and moist you couldn’t dry your hands on it but that would not have been too bad except when we got to our room it was destroyed in ants. We said we would give it a chance and stayed there that night but oh my god when we woke up we were covered head to toe in bites. Our bed sheets were nearly black there was so many ants and we couldn’t stop scratching ourselves. Nightmare. We were gone for the day on the ATV tour and when we came home and showered we were so depressed about having to stay another night we just packed our bags and left. We arrived at the Sea Cocoon Hotel down the road and managed to get two rooms super cheap and it made such a difference to our trip because when we came home at least now we had air conditioning!!
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Hidden Lagoon and Secret Beach
What we did
  • The ATV day tour was one of the best days of my life. We went quad biking all over the island including Nacpan beach and Duli beach which have the clearest waters and whitest sands on earth.
  • We booked our island hopping tour on the website elnidoparadise.com and we did the Tour A & C combo. It includes 10 destinations including the secret lagoon and secret beach where you have to literally swim through a cave to get to the beach. There is genuinely no words to describe that day other than pure MAGIC.
  • Las Cabanas beach for a day of relaxation
  • Go out: the 3 main spots are Sava, Coco Bar and Pukka club. Great tunes and such a good way to make friends because they are the only places you can properly go dancing.

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ATV Tour with our guides

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Duli Beach
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Las Cabanas Beach
Food
We had the best meals in El Nido over the course of our travels. I’ll leave a list of the places we ate in here :
Sava: fab dinner
Lucky Alofe: vegetarian burrito and the burgers are lovely
Gustos: ice cream / crepes
Altrove pizzeria: we went here twice it was so delicious
V and V: a nice breakfast spot
Art Cafe: fab for lunch or dinner
Side note: we got food included on our day trips and it was amazing,creative and so tasty. Have a look down below!
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To sum it up El Nido is the most beautiful destinations I have ever been to and I think it has ruined any other trip I go on because nothing will compare to it. Definitely make it your mission to visit the Philippines before you die. We all said we would go back on our honeymoons because it just has the best mix of relaxation and adventure.
Mini Mint x

Electric Picnic 2017

Hey everyone! I have been so busy lately between moving back to college for my final year (cue nervous laughter) and attending electric picnic aswell as the all Ireland final. We won’t talk about that last one. I’m severely wrecked and broke but I’m gonna quickly fill you in on the last weekend for anyone thinking of buying electric picnic tickets for 2018 which are on sale NOW!!
Getting there
So my first year I went from Waterford and it was a breeze, we drove up at 7 am and didn’t meet any traffic. We got a clear run and stopped for breakfast on route. We parked in the yellow car park which is a 5 minute walk from the Jimmy Hendrix campsite where we stayed. I would definitely recommend bringing your car if you have one because you can leave stuff in it and go back and forth as opposed to a bus where you have to carry everything at once.
This year we drove up from limerick around half 8 and didn’t meet too much traffic but we had to park in the red car park which was a fair trek to the campsite especially when you’re carrying 20 cans and 4 litres of mixer.
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My outfits
Day 1:
Luckily the weather was actually ok this year so I was able to wear this tie-dyed maxi dress which I purchased on holidays in El Nido. I wore this oversized festival jacket from boohoo.com and just an old pair of converse because as we all know festivals are not the place for fancy footwear. I wore this (what I thought was funky) septum piercing from Penneys also and got the piss taken out of me for the weekend lol.
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Day 2:
I wore this slogan t shirt dress which had the saying “stop everything and dance” paired with a multicoloured kimono/dressing gown which I purchased in a market in Vietnam for about 20 cent. These boots are years old and they’re from schuh.
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Day 3:
Day 3 I went up to Croke park to the all ireland so the attire was fairly basic in jeans and a jersey. I was devastated about the result but if Waterford couldn’t win, I was glad it was Galway if that makes sense. Hopefully this time next year it will be a different story. We are some of the best supporters in the country and I’ve no doubt they’ll come back stronger than ever.
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What to do
  • Body and soul is hands down the coolest place ever also they have a bonfire so when you’re freezing I would deffo recommend heading in there.
  • I know it’s super tempting to stay in the campsite and drink with all your mates but do make the effort to actually go inside and see some acts, you’re after paying €240 in fairness
  • Exploring the food trucks is also a great shout because you can get anything you possibly want, don’t be afraid to try something different inside or getting a burger every day.
  • The salty dog and trailer park are also such cool places to go explore at night time.
So that’s ep in a nutshell really. Even if there is a “bad line up” I would still recommend going because you might be surprised what you could find for example we went to see The Magician at the Heineken stage and going in we only knew one song, but it was the best two hours ever and we had such an unreal time.
Mini mint x

Boracay: The Philippines

About Boracay
Boracay is a small island located in the Philippines. Boracay was awarded as the 2012 best island in the world from the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure. In 2014, the resort island was at the top of the Best Islands in the World list published by the international magazine Condé Nast Traveler. It now has an excess of over 350 beach resorts ranging from 5 star to budget accommodation. We went in August which is their rainy season but were blessed enough that we didn’t get any rain and had 30 degree heat everyday and sunshine.
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Getting there
From Ireland it was a bit of a trek, I won’t lie. We flew to Dubai with Emirates first and spent a day at the Oceana beach club on The Palm Jumeirah which was a great way to kick start our tans. We then flew to Manila (with Philippine Airlines) which is the capital of the Philippines and had to stay there for a night until our flight the next day. Manila is super overcrowded and dangerous so I would definitely say to try to go straight to the islands if you can and if not, stay in a hotel near the airport for the night. Manila is the most densely populated city in the world FYI so good luck trying to sleep there.
We flew from Manila to boracay caticlan airport with Cebu Pacific. However to get to the actual boracay island you have to get a speed boat but we were lucky enough our hotel arranged the private transfer for us at an additional cost.
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Accommodation
We stayed in Fairways and Bluewater Newcoast resort which is located north of the island. It’s a massive resort with loads of restaurants and facilities including an 18 hole golf course, 5 infinity pools, private beaches, zip lining, horseback riding etc. The staff were so polite and helpful and our rooms were so luxurious especially because they weren’t even that expensive. The hotel provides a shuttle bus down to the town every couple of minutes which is handy as well.
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What we did
  • The pools and beaches in the resort are to die for, the water is so clear and there’s not a bit of pollution. The pictures speak for themselves.
  • Zip lining and horseback riding provided by the hotel.
  • Day trip to Ariels point which is unreal, they provide kayaks and snorkelling gear and there’s a selection of diving boards. Probably our best day in Boracay.
  • The Boracay pub crawl. This was SO MUCH FUN! You’re forced to make friends with everyone and you all get drunk together in yellow t-shirts and end up in Galaxy Nightclub at the end.

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Food
We ate in the hotel a good bit in their restaurants but in hindsight it was very expensive compared to places down at D’Mall which is like the beachfront and a hive of activity. Down there we ate at the Red Coconut and Epic. Both meals were lovely and looking back we should have gone down to the town more often for dinner.
Overall we loved Boracay and it was a great spot to start our holiday. There’s a really good balance of nightlife and relaxation there and it’s probably one of the most touristy islands in the Philippines so we made a couple of friends along the way! I cannot recommend this country enough so definitely put it on your bucket list.
Mini Mint x

Turning 21

Hey everyone! I’m turning the grand ole age of 21 this week and this is going to be a bit of a different blog post compared to what I have done so far as I’ve been feeling severely contemplative about what I’ve achieved and what I have not achieved in my life so far. I know I’m only 21 not 60 and what could I have possibly have to share? I mean I’m only starting off in life right? Well here is the story..
  1. No one is going to hand you your dreams. I always thought if you were a good person and went to mass, that good things would fall in your lap. This is not true. You seriously have to work to get what you want in life. You want to travel? Work and save and then book your holiday. You want to go to college? Study and organise yourself. You want to meet someone special? Then go out and ask someone out. If you want something in life you are going to have to go and get it yourself. No one gets handed success and opportunities, you have to want and work for them                IMG_6585[1]
  2. It is physically impossible to be everyone’s friend. This is very true for me in the case of college especially. Throughout school I tried to be friends with everyone and I learnt that it’s just not feasible. When I went to college it was an eye opener as to who truly cared about me and who didn’t. Hang onto the people who text you to see how you’re doing and actually make an effort to meet up because they are the ones who are actively making an effort in keeping you in their life. I’m not saying to ditch people or to be mean. I still love going home at Christmas and seeing practically my whole school year out because it’s nice to see how much people change and grow but you don’t need to be everyone’s best best friend. Just be kind. IMG_6588[1]
  3. Your parents are right (most of the time) It legit took me 21 years to realise this one hahaha. They have been through more ups and downs in life than you so they have a better perspective. It’s just common sense. They’ve been through more in life and can offer some pretty decent advice when it comes down to it. I know “times were different when they were teenagers” and “they don’t understand what it’s like nowadays” TRUST ME I have used all the excuses in the book but at the end of the day you are their child and they really do want what’s best for you so take a step back and listen.                                                                                                                              IMG_6586[1]
  4. Time is a great healer. If it’s overcoming a great loss or a lost relationship, it becomes more bearable as the days go on. I know it’s super cliche but I lost some great people over the years from people passing away to just drifting from good friends and I found that it doesn’t hurt as much now to when it happened. Just something to bear in mind if you feel like your world is ending.
  5. Hangovers get so much worse the older you get. Seriously. Our older brothers and sisters weren’t joking about this one.
  6. Food can cure most arguments. Your boyfriend is mad at you? Buy him a chicken burger. Your sister is thick you stole her dress? Buy her a bag of jellies. Sorted.

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These are just some things I thought I would share because I’ve been feeling very emotional all week. I found a letter I wrote to myself in Leaving Cert and bawled crying which is so unlike me. One last thing I would say is to live your life for yourself. It is too short to waste your whole life pleasing others. Now I’m off to pack for my 3 week trip to Asia and I’ll be sure to post about everything we do. I’m sure there will be loads of mistakes ahah, see you soon.
Mini mint x
(P.s We went to Bellissimo in Waterford City for dinner)

Longitude 2017

Hey everyone!
As some of you know I attended Longitude Festival this weekend all thanks to my sister for my amazing 21st present!!️ I love outdoor concerts and festivals because it’s the one time we all get to truly experiment with our style and just wear whatever the heck we want and no one cares. I know we all try to do it in our day to day lives but if you walk into work with glitter splashed in your hair and a tie-dyed crop top you are going to receive some strange looks. Anyways, I’ve just gone through some looks I helped style over the weekend as well as the overall experience so enjoy xx
The Outfits
For starters I wore a cream dress I have owned for years from Forever 21 and paired it with an orange kimono from H&M and a brown belt from Primark to give it a more boho look. I kept my makeup pretty basic except I did a statement orange eye (cause realistically I’m not going to be able to wear orange eye shadow to work so decided to experiment) and black liner. My hair was so so simple to do, I just sprayed some texture spray to give it a messy look and parted my hair into a middle parting with two mini space buns.
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The second outfit I styled was different in a sense that I took one piece of clothing (the shirt) and worked the outfit around it. I bought this shirt in TopShop for my sister for her birthday and thought it was perfect for a festival. I paired it with this frayed denim skirt from New Look and black belt with some red converse to bring out the red detailing on the back.
Getting there
I’m lucky enough to have a sister who lives in Dublin so we drove up Friday night and stayed with her. (For those who don’t know, longitude is a non-camping festival) we woke up and cracked open some cans then started plowing into the glitter and face paint. We found an unbelievably nice taxi man called Joe canning lol (Sidenote: he is not from Galway) and he brought us there and back and into town again after. We came home from Marley Park and then just went straight to coppers. Standard.
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What we did
For starters we had to queue up and have our bags searched etc and once we got in we got a round of pints. We took the necessary pictures and got that out of the way then went exploring the venue. We met up with all of the college crowd and my sisters friends and we just chilled because the weather was actually unreal thank god. We then parted ways to see All Tvvins and Skepta then all of us went to the Weeknd. WHO WAS AMAZING BTW.

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Who won Longitude?
I know my friends reading this are rolling their eyes so far into the back of their head that they can see last week cause I have not stopped talking about it. Niamh Cullen won the Most Stylish Woman of all time at Longitude yesterday. I basically had a mini heart attack when I saw her and asked for a picture like the ultimate creeper that I am. She is so sound and just an all-round deadly girl I mean do you see this jacket? No words. Fabuulous!!
Hands down one of the best days ever, everyone was just in such a good mood and the acts were unbelievable. I would really recommend going next year to anyone thinking about buying tickets. It’s kind of nice that you get to go home to sleep in a proper bed as well as opposed to camping in a tent with no showering facilities.
Mini Mint x
SHOP THE LOOK
boohoo Aeryn Aztec Batwing Maxi Kimono - orange £20.00 by Renata Dias Lopes
LINK: http://indulgy.com/post/VDUsLIZmD3/boohoo-aeryn-aztec-batwing-maxi-kimono-orange

Packing for a summer holiday

I can’t sing. I’m shocking at sport. One thing I actually can do though, is pack for a holiday with expert precision. While most people dread packing, once you know how to do it correctly it’s a breeze. I’ve written about some tips that I live by so worrying about over or under packing will be a thing of the past
Note: this is for anyone travelling to a warm climate, if you’re going skiing I’d suggest to bring jumpers and wooly socks.
Rule 1 – Clothes
  • You won’t wear jeans. So stop debating weather to bring black, denim or white because you won’t wear them. Wear one pair while travelling and they will do you.
  • Shorts and skirts that are cotton and can be rolled up small are what you want. They’re lightweight and you won’t sweat your eyes out. They’re what your going to live in if you’re doing any tours, excursions or shopping.
  • Two nice summer dresses for going out for dinner.
  • Shoes: bring a pair of runners for walking, hikes, tours etc. A nice pair of sandals for going out, a plain brown/nude pair of sandals/flip flops that you can pair with any outfit for everyday. There is absolutely no need for heels cause the roads are uneven af and you’re on holiday mate no one knows you, may as well wear flats and have a savage night out.
  • String tops are your life on holiday I usually bring a couple in different colours and they can be worn every day cause it’s going to be super hot and also for nights out with funky shorts/skirts.
  • Bring a jacket just in case it’s breezy at night time. I have an oversized denim jacket that can go over any outfit dressy or casual.
  • A playsuit or two for some nights out because they’re comfy and lightweight.
Rule 2 – Toiletries
  • Why are you even debating which foundations to bring? They’re so cumbersome to carry and you’re not going to be wearing it during the day. My advice is to bring one light foundation (with an spf) and a powder so you don’t sweat it off. Realistically it’s going to be too warm to wear much makeup so stick to your basics i.e no need for the 30 different eye shadow pallets.
  • Sun cream and AFTERSUN!! Just because you “don’t burn” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring them. We are one of the worst countries for skin cancer so use your brain and wear spf, even when you’re flying because believe it or not UV rays come in through your air plane windows so keep your blind down as well.
  • Moisturiser and eye cream are essential because you’re going to be sweating and more than likely drinking alcohol so you really need to hydrate your skin properly.
  • A roll on deodorant
  • Mini toothpaste
  • Toothbrush

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Rule 3 – Travel accessories 
  • Download some good songs/books that you will be able to play when your phone is going to be on air plane mode.
  • An empty water bottle. Empty so you can bring it through security and then just fill it up at a water fountain. This will save you spending a tenner on a bottle of Evian.
  • A baggy cardigan/scarf. This will save you from the chill of the air plane air conditioning as well as doubling up as a pillow for a quick nap.
  • Sunglasses and a good hat
  • Headphones
  • Mini speaker
  • A backpack or bumbag for day trips
Rule 4 – Lists
I live for making lists on my phone, especially when planning a trip. One tip I would recommend is make a checklist for all the essentials you need before you leave the house:
-phone and charger
-passport
-tickets & booking confirmation for hotel
-keys
-credit card and money
-drivers licence
-toothbrush
I hope this helped at least one of you. The most important thing to remember when packing is less is more. Most likely you will be doing shopping over there, so there is no need to have a whole new outfit for every day of the week. Trust me.
Mini Mint x

India

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Hiya! A couple of years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kolkata, India in transition year with the Hope Foundation. It was here that I fell in love with the idea of nursing that led me down my career path of helping others. It was one of the best trips I have ever taken and I am going to share some insight into what we experienced and what India has to offer.

The country and why I went

India is the most populated country in the world with Kolkata (formally Calcutta) hosting a population of over 4.6 million people. There are approximately 800,000 street children in Kolkata and I had the privilege of meeting these beautiful young people. I have such a selection of pictures of these little kids that would melt your heart but I am unable to publish them online for security reasons. I’m sorry they are actually gold ahaha. Our school organised this immersion program with our guidance counsellor and the selection process was tough so in the end myself and sixteen other students from our school travelled to India along with other colleges in Ireland who we became very close with. We travelled to Dubai and then made our connecting flight to Kolkata.

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The Programmes

Over the course of our time in Calcutta we were brought to several different programmes that the Hope Foundation had set up including orphanages, schools and hospitals. The work that these people do is amazing. They do everything in their power to help as many people as they can. Even something as simple as taking a shipping container into a slum and using it as a safe place where kids can gather to learn their basic alphabet is mind blowing.  Hope’s main priority is helping the street children however they also run programmes for the mothers such as sewing classes and tutorials on weaving and creating your own jewellery from basic materials. These are simple little skills that these people can use to earn a living.

What we saw

While visiting the orphanages, slums and hospitals were the main reason for our trip we also managed to squeeze in a visit to Mother Theresa’s Tombstone in the Mother House in Kolkata. We had the opportunity to visit some temples as well which are simply gorgeous. The architecture is mesmerising and the buildings are so full of colour it is a stark contrast to our catholic churches back home. I wish we could have had more time in India but it is on the top of my list of countries I want to go back to. While our visit was short and sweet, the experience was life changing for me. I felt I came back a better person who understands how lucky we are to be born in a first world country and to make the most of it!

So that is just a quick synopsis of my time in India. We stayed at a pretty basic hotel in Kolkata and got our dinner every night included in our expenses. We had to fund-raise 3,500 euro each before we left which was tough going but very worth it. My advice would be to take these opportunities when they come at you! I was nervous going as I was only fifteen and had never been on a trip without my parents before but it was the best thing for me and the whole journey taught me some serious life lessons.

Mini Mint x

London

Hiya! London is one place that I will never get tired of visiting due to the vast amount of things to see and do there. I have included a couple of things I have personally enjoyed while being over there but take into consideration some things are not for everyone so with any trip just make sure to do what you want to do.

Places to see & Tourist spots

London is full to the brim of famous landmarks which are pretty much compulsory to visit. I mean have even been to London if you haven’t gotten a picture with Big Ben? Buckingham palace and Trafalgar Square are also great tourist spots. I actually attended Gay Pride here in 2015 and it was such an unreal day. There were thousands of people decked out in multicoloured clothes and just a huge sense of happiness and we bopped to Blue. M&M world is also super fun and you can get photo booth pictures with all your pals, find out what type of m&m you are and even get personalised m&ms with whatever you want written on them. We also did the London Dungeons tour which is kind of like walking through a haunted house but so much craic. It’s located just opposite the London Eye and was actually one of my highlights. Madame Tousauds is another must-do in London. It’s not like I’m going to be in a position where I get to kiss David Beckham on the cheek in real life so I can settle with his wax doppelganger!

 

 

Places to go

If you’re looking to do some serious shopping where else to go only Oxford Street? Home to thousands of your most-loved shops including my personal favourite Topshop. It is HUGE. No words to describe this Mecca to fashion lovers only go and see if for yourself. I dare you to go and try to not spend any money. If you are not that into high street fashion, Camden is a real cool and edgy alternative. Browse through the stalls and soak up the atmosphere. you can locate some great finds in the various vintage shops scattered across the area. Speaking of vintage shopping, Brick Lane is also impeccable for finding some used clothing. The Sunday market in Brick Lane is where poor fashion tastes go to die. you can literally find anything you could possibly want here. It’s also home to the famous Cereal Killer Cafe so why not start your day off right and have a bowel of peanut butter cups for brekkie?

Things to do

My number one thing I would recommend when in London is to climb the O2 arena at sunset. It was one of the coolest and most surreal experiences ever and by far was the best thing I have done in London. The Emirates cable cars are also another cool way to see the whole city and you sail over the Thames but I would not recommend if you don’t like heights as they can sometimes swing a bit. If you can manage to squeeze in a show at the West End you will not regret it. This is actually a perfect excursion if you are on a family trip or with an older crowd. We saw Billy Elliott and is was sensational. To this day no show has beaten it! Unreal. The Tower Bridge promenade or Hyde Park are two places I would suggest if the weather is warm in London. you can chill out and get an ice cream and watch the world go by whilst listening to some performers.

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That’s just some suggestions of things to see and do in one of the greatest cities in the world. I stayed with a friend while in London for a week but have stayed in hotels the other times.

Mini Mint x

Accommodation List

  • Kensington Hotel
  • The Hilton Kensington

Note: When travelling to London it is easiest to fly into Heathrow and get an Oyster card for travelling around. The tube is located at the airport so you just hop and it can take you to anywhere in London.

Alternatively: You can fly into the surrounding airports such as Stansted, Luton or Gatwick and get the train to King’s Cross station. from here you can get the bus or tube to wherever you wish to see. this is sometimes cheaper for flights.

California Road Trip

Hiya! So last summer I was lucky enough to travel the west coast of America with my sister and we had an absolute BALL of a time over there. Some stories are for us to know only. (Aoife never forget how we got home from the wedding, you owe me!) For the most part though I want to share where we went and what we did with all of you.

Los Angeles

We landed in LAX after our 9 hour flight and we were super tired but we still had to sort out our rental car and drive to Redondo Beach which was our first stop. We got to our hotel and passed out. We based ourselves here for 5 days and in those days we travelled to Hollywood, San Diego and Downtown Los Angeles. Yes, we took all those cringey tourist pictures but we had steller sushi, went on an adventure to the Hollywood Sign and learnt how to paddle board in San Diego courtesy of our cousin. (Shoutout to him for throwing us off our boards, you the real MVP) After this we travelled to Hermosa Beach for two nights which is by far one of the funkiest hotels I have ever stayed at. From here we went on to the famous Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier which are both gorgeous and so full of excitement and life. I mean it is the end of route 66. 10/10 would recommend for the photo opportunities as well and celebrity spotting.

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Santa Barbara

We left LA exhausted because we crammed so much in but managed to drive to Santa Barbara. We stayed in a pretty basic inn but it had free breakfast. We stayed 3 nights in Santa Barbara and here we rented cruiser bikes and travelled the whole coast on them. Note to readers: wear suncream. We also did a spot of shopping here but overall there is a really chill vibe with not much of a nightlife. Perfect place to relax among the palm trees in the middle of your journey to recharge the batteries.

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Gilroy & San Francisco

After this we travelled the most beautiful 4 hour car journey to Gilroy. The whole purpose of this trip was to go to this wedding between our two American friends and let me tell you it was a serious culture shock. A gorgeous ceremony with plenty of craic but completely different to an Irish wedding. It was a great day, we made a lot of friends and bust some serious moves on the dance floor. We stayed for two nights before we continues to our last stop which was San Francisco. We have both been to San Francisco before so we weren’t too bothered about doing all of the tourist things. That didn’t stop us from cycling to the Golden Gate Bridge though and taking a few cheeky snaps. We saw the fireworks on the Fourth of July down at Pier 39 and they were incredible. Truly, words cannot describe how mesmerised I was for that night. After spending a drunken night in Berkeley with one of my friends at a frat house I can safely say this was one of the best trips I have ever been on.

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California ticked all the right boxes but the one thing I will say is that you would definitely need a car due to everything being so spread out. All accommodation we stayed at are listed below.

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Accommodation List

  • Redondo Beach Crowne Plaza
  • Hotel Hermosa
  • Avania Inn
  • Nikko Hotel San Francisco

Note: We stayed with friends in Gilroy and San Francisco but we stayed in the Nikko last time and it was amaaazing.