CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Four

I was so sad to leave after our final day in London but I think I need a holiday to get over this trip away!

Our first stop this morning was the London Eye. We only stopped to take a few photographs as all three of us are terrified of heights so it wouldn’t have been a very enjoyable experience actually going on it!

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After this we walked over to the London Dungeons. My sister has really been looking forward to visiting here as she loves her horrible history! We played an absolute blinder with these tickets as they cost £30 on the door but good old Tesco Clubcard saved the day again as we got an entrance ticket in exchange for £8 worth of Clubcard vouchers! Best deal of the trip I think!

When we got there and read all the warning signs about the dungeons (“not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition”etc) we all started to panic and wondered what on earth we had got ourselves into! In the dungeons you work your way through several different scenes from different eras such as Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel and Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Some parts of it were quite scary and several people jumped and screamed throughout but the actors were fantastic and it was a really good experience in which you learned a lot about the history of London (and some awful torture devices!!)

After a couple of hours at the London Dungeon (which was absolutely amazing!) we had lunch at All Bar One . The menu was lovely, they had tapas available, 3 dishes for £15 or 5 dishes for £25.

After a big lunch we went over to the London Eye Pier and caught the Thames River cruise. I think there are several companies that you can book river cruises through – we pre-booked our tickets with City Cruises. The thing I liked about City Cruises was that they say although you pre-book a ticket for a cruise at a particular time, if you miss the pre-booked time you can use your ticket for another time that day, which takes the pressure off if you are over-running at another place prior.

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We caught the cruise which went from the London Eye Pier to the Tower Pier. During the journey we passed:

  • The London Eye
  • The Golden Jubilee footbridge
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • BFI Southbank Theatre
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Millenium footbridge
  • Southwark Bridge
  • Southwark Cathedral
  • London Bridge
  • HMS Belfast
  • The Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge

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After our river cruise we arrived at the Tower Pier and walked to the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

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After this we walked over to The Shard to have a couple of drinks in the cocktail bar – AquaShard. I thought it would be a lovely way to finish off our London visit and the views from the Shard are SPECTACULAR.

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If you are coming in for just drinks, you can’t reserve tables as they are on a first come first served basis but we had no problem getting a space in the early afternoon. Check out their wine, champagne and cocktail sample menu here.

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After a couple of very extravagant and very expensive cocktails we caught an Uber back to the hotel to collect our cases and wandered down to the Victoria Coach station to catch our coach home.

What an amazing trip! I think we did so well to fit so much in during such a short space of time! Of course there are still many other places I would like to come back and see but so pleased I got to see all these incredible places! I really do think that the key to such amazing visits is in the planning – if you group the places you want to visit and then plan your different days around a certain area, you really can pack loads and loads into your day!!

Off to plan my next city visit now – Prague in June for four days for our 8 year wedding anniversary!!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Three

Special day in London today as it is also my Birthday! What a brilliant way to spend it!

After another hearty Hutton’s Hotel breakfast we took a walk over to Westminster Abbey. We’ve pre-booked entry tickets for the Abbey – prices are £20 per adult and £17 concession. Looking at the on the door prices and online prices it doesn’t look as if you save anything by pre-booking them online but we have so much to do today and by pre-booking them and being able to skip the queue it bought us a bit more time!

Westminster Abbey is beautiful – well worth a visit despite its quite expensive entrance fee. Guide books are £6 each if you want to buy one to remember your visit as you are not allowed to take photos inside the Abbey.

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After our Westminster Abbey visit we wandered around and took photos of:

Big Ben

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The Palace of Westminster 

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Horse Guards Parade

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Trafalgar Square

 

After all this walking it was time for the event we had planned a whole visit to London around – the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play! The play is in two parts and is being shown at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. We watched Part One at 2pm and then we went away and came back to watch Part Two at 7:30pm later in the evening.

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The first Part of the play was absolutely fantastic, we couldn’t wait to go back to watch the second part! I can’t say too much about it (as per a request by J.K Rowling herself) but I will say to any true Harry Potter fans – do all you can to get hold of these tickets, you wont be disappointed! The actors were brilliant and the special effects were out of this world – unlike anything I have ever seen on the stage!

During the gap between Part One and Part Two of the play we paid a quick visit the famous Snowflake for some ice cream. Way too many flavours to mention but amazing gelato and waffles, milkshakes, sundaes and desserts as well. There are a few Snowflakes across London (including within the Selfridges food hall) so pop in to one if you get the chance. An alternative to Snowflake is Snog Frozen yogurt if you would prefer a lower fat alternative! I ended up having three scoops – one each of coffee, creme brûlée and stracciatella!

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We had an early dinner tonight before Part Two was due to start, we chose to go to Bella Italia (another one of my favourites) but the main reason for choosing it was because we managed to exchange £10 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £40 worth of Bella Italia vouchers to put towards our meal due to Clubcard Boost (thanks again Tescos!)

 

Part Two of the play started at 7:30pm and finished at around 10:15pm – Part Two was well worth the wait! The play is designed to be watched on two separate occasions but I don’t know how people who watch Part one go away and then come back days or weeks later to watch the second part! The suspense would have killed me I think! An incredible play which had me in tears by the end, highly recommended!

Overall what an amazing Birthday! Definitely one which will be remembered for years to come!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Two

We got up early this morning as we have a busy day ahead, the Hutton’s Hotel cooked breakfast this morning was brilliant, we had a choice of eggs (scrambled or fried), sausages, bacon, baked beans, hash browns, cheese, fruit, cornflakes, muesli, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and orange juice – just what we needed to start us off for day two!

First thing this morning we walked over to Harrods to visit the food hall – I have been several times before but the items you find in there still never cease to amaze me! There are cakes and pastries and bread and biscuits and macarons…. the list goes on.

 

 

 

Whilst we were there I bought a (very expensive!) bumper sized pack of La Duree macarons as they are my absolute favourite and all other macarons I have tried just do not compare to these! You can order them online however be aware because they are fresh and very fragile, shipping is expensive so bumps the price up even more!

 

I also bought some amazing Unicorn cupcakes! How cute are these??

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After spending way too much time (and money!) in the Harrods food hall, we wandered down to the Science Museum. The museum opens at 10am and closes at 6pm and is free entry. We spent a couple of hours here, the museum is not as big as we had imagined but is full of really interesting sections such as the energy hall, exploring space, agriculture and atmosphere. We didn’t spend as long here as we thought we would and in all honesty we didn’t enjoy it as much as previous visits we had paid to the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, but I have friends who have been here and have really enjoyed it. The other thing to bear in mind, if you go during the week, the museum will be chokka with school kids which makes it difficult getting close to some of the exhibits!

After over-working our brains at the science museum for a few hours, we caught an Uber over to the place I have really been looking forward to during our visit – Camden Market!

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There really are so many amazing places to visit and eat at that we couldn’t possibly visit (and eat at!) them all, but here are a few of the places you can try:

Chin Chin Nitro Icecream – AMAZING ice cream which is frozen using liquid nitrogen. We had cream cheese flavoured ice cream on top of a warm red velvet cake with cinnamon crunch toast – it was the best ice cream I have EVER had! Follow them on Instagram @Chin Chin Ice Cream.

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La Churrerialdn – I have always loved churros so this was one of the must visit places on my list! We bought 6 large warm churros rings with caramel sauce and tiny marshmallow sprinkles – delicious! Follow them on Instagram @lachurrerialdn.

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The Mac Factory – THE BEST mac and cheese I have ever tried!! All three of us had the “Nostalgic” which consisted of a blend of mature cheddar and mozzarella with a thyme and parmesan crumble topping. There are also lots of other choices including the “Super Mario” which includes sautéed portobello mushrooms, truffle oil and wild garlic and the “Lobster Mac” which includes lobster poached in a garlic and parsley butter with a lemon garnish. Yum! More info is available on their website.

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Hallumi Fries – One of the main reasons we visited Camden Market is to sample these amazing things!! I spotted them ages ago on Instagram and have been looking forward to trying them ever since! £5 a box is well worth it – pieces of hallumi are deep fried and then covered in za’atar yogurt, pomegranate molasses, mint, sumac, turkish chilli and pomegranate seeds. Incredible.

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Half Hitch Gin – I am not a gin drinker but my Mum and sister love it so they bought a bottle each. Although I didn’t try any, the small of it was delicious! The key botanicals for Half Hitch Gin is black tea, bergamot, wood, hay and pepper. For more information, visit their webpage here where you can also order bottles online.

 

South East Cakery – Award winning brownie bars including Oreo and Honeycomb, I settled for the Salted Caramel version! I took mine away for later but you can have them made up then and there to include whipped cream, salted caramel popcorn and pretzels too!

Also well worth a visit whilst you are here – the statue in tribute to the amazing Amy Winehouse. The statue is a really beautiful tribute to her as she stands amongst the market crowds.

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I ate way, way too much today! Could really do with going on a long, long run tomorrow morning to burn off just some of today’s calories!!

Later in the evening we visited the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to go and watch Thriller Live – what an amazing show! Every singer and dancer and musician was outstanding and we were lucky enough to get seats only 5 rows back! What a brilliant day and evening!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day One

I’ve been wanting to visit London properly for years but it’s one of those places that you put to the bottom of the list because in the back of your mind you think to yourself that you can visit any time because it’s only a couple of hours away, so the more exotic locations usually win the “where should we go this year?” argument!

I’m visiting London with my sister and Mum so we needed to book a triple room for the occasion (much more difficult to find than I expected!) but we eventually settled on The Hutton’s hotel in Victoria, as we were travelling by coach and the hotel is only a few minutes walk from Victoria Coach Station. When we booked we also managed to get a  cooked breakfast included in our stay so thought we did quite well! For the triple room we paid around £390 for 3 nights so it worked out to be £130 per person in the end.

 

 

Once we had arrived we travelled over to St Paul’s Cathedral. We bought tickets online as they were slightly cheaper (£16 instead of £18). Pre-booking the tickets online also provide you with fast track entry to the Cathedral and as we were fitting so much into such a short space of time, any time spent not waiting in huge queues is a bonus!

The Cathedral is a really beautiful place, but I was most disappointed that you aren’t allowed to take photos inside! As you aren’t allowed to take photos,  I’d recommend getting a guide book to remember your visit, they are £4.50 each. Book your entry tickets to the Cathedral here.

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After our visit to the Cathedral we caught an Uber to Brick Lane to visit the Cereal Killer Cafe. What an amazing place! I highly recommend paying a visit! LOADS of cereals to choose from with a huge variety of milks and toppings to have with them. They also have a selection of pop tarts and hot drinks. Make sure you also try the cereal cocktails they have on offer! While we were there we had Unicorn Poop cereal (£4.90 a bowl) and a Salted Caramel malt shake! The friendly staff will help you if you don’t know where to start and can recommend cereals, milks and toppings which compliment each other. AMAZING!

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We then walked to the famous bagel shops Beigel bake (159 Brick Lane) and Beigel Shop (155 Brick Lane). I’ve heard great reviews about both of these places but my main reason for visiting was because I have been trying to track down some world famous rainbow bagels for ages and I had heard that I could find them here! The bagels did not disappoint – my Mum and sister had a lovely smoked salmon bagel and I left with a bag of 6 rainbow bagels for me and my friends (only 50p each!).

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Next was the Tower of London! You can book Tower of London tickets online here, but to be honest you don’t save much (£25.00 on the door vs £23.10 online). We found the best deal was to spend our Tesco club card vouchers and, due to Clubcard Boost, in exchange for £2.50 worth of Clubcard vouchers we got £10.00 back to spend on entry fees at the Tower of London! We paid for the vast majority of our entrance fee costs using Tesco Clubcard vouchers so only had to pay a couple of pounds to make up the difference! Bargain! You can read more about Clubcard Boost here.

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The Tower of London was fantastic and well worth a visit! You could easily spend a day here, there is so much to see. The Crown Jewels are incredible, we went round three times so we could keep looking at them over and over again, and the views of Tower Bridge and The Shard are spectacular on a clear day. I highly recommend waiting for one of the tours which run approximately half hourly – your Yeoman Warder guide is full of amazing facts and information and makes your visit to the tower far more enjoyable.

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After a  few hours at the Tower of London, we crossed Tower Bridge for our next stop – Southwark Cathedral. The Cathedral is a beautiful building, you don’t need tickets to get in and tours of the Cathedral start from £3.00. By the time we arrived, the Cathedral was closed so we didn’t get to go in which was a shame.

 

We then wandered over to see Shakespeare’s Globe (my sister is a big Shakespeare fan!) and had a well deserved drink in the bar. We didn’t have tickets to tonights show and we were disappointed we couldn’t go into the theatre, but the views of the Thames and the London skyline from here are absolutely stunning, especially at night when everything is lit up!

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Finally we caught an Uber back to the hotel, ordered a takeaway and collapsed in bed! What an amazing day full of spectacular things! Looking forward to day two of our London adventure!

Five Days in Dubai

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I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai and around this time last year an amazing offer came up on Travelzoo to stay in Atlantis, The Palm so I couldn’t resist booking it!

I knew the weather would be ridiculously hot in June and it would be relatively quiet as it was Ramadan during our trip but we’d got such a busy year ahead (and only a few select dates were available as part of the offer) so the beginning of June was the only time we could go.

We travelled from Birmingham airport and flew direct to Dubai with Emirates.

At The Atlantis we stayed in a beautiful Ocean Deluxe room but were given the opportunity to upgrade to a different room for an additional fee if we wanted to.

The Ocean Deluxe room was beautiful and we had an amazing view:

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You can choose an Ocean Deluxe room with either a king sized bed or two queen sized beds and the room has a minibar with cable TV, a walk-in shower and a separate bath.

The hotel really does live up to its reputation and is absolutely beautiful. We stayed on a half board basis which included breakfast and evening meal and there was no shortage of places to eat! The hotel has over 20 restaurants, the Atlantis Hotel website has more details but here are just a few of the restaurants you can enjoy:

  • Bread Street Kitchen and Bar by Gordon Ramsay – We ate in here and really enjoyed it, although there have been mixed reviews on the internet. Find a copy of the A La Carte menu here. For my starter I had Tagliolini with lobster, spring onions, chilli & parsley which was lovely and for my dessert I had Chocolate Parfait with salted caramel icecream – perfect!
  • Ayamna – Lebanese cuisine – Lovely friendly staff willing to talk you through the menu and recommend what they think you will enjoy, and the restaurant also has hookah pipes with a large menu if this is something you fancy!
  • Ronda Locatelli – A delicious Italian, we ate in here and had three courses each which were all really tasty! The freshly made pizza and delicious tiramisu come highly recommended!
  • Nasimi Beach – Closed when we went and throughout the summer, I assume because of the high temperatures. Nassimi Beach offers beachside dining in the cooler months and is an adults only beach which hosts regular beach parties and serves amazing cocktails. Private cabanas, sunbeds and tables are on a first come first served basis so get there as early as you can!
  • Saffron – South Asian buffet restaurant with a huge choice of dishes and live cooking stations. Saffron is also one of the places you can go for your buffet breakfast and again, the choice is huge. Out of the two places you can eat breakfast, Saffron was my favourite.
  • Kaleidoscope – International buffet with themed nights and the other restaurant to go to for your English and full continental breakfast. Kaleidoscope had a huge range of very good food, I just preferred the atmosphere of Saffron compared with Kaleidoscope.
  • TBJ – aka The Burger Joint – Tasty burgers quick and easy if you fancy dining a little more casually, as there is no dress code in TBJ.

There are also other restaurants available, although some of them charge extra to dine in if you are staying on a half board basis – Nobu (Japanese Cuisine), Ossiano (you can eat with stunning views of the Ambassador Lagoon!) and Seafire Steakhouse are some of the restaurants which charge this uplift. Platos and Illy’s cafe offer coffees, teas, pastries and paninis but had very limited opening hours when we were there due to Ramadan.

Outside dining is also available in the cooler months at The Edge (casual poolside restaurants serving pizza, salads and burgers), The Shore (poolside restaurant serving fajitas, nachos and steaks) and in other selected restaurants such as Nobu. You can also dine under the stars on Royal Beach with champagne and a set menu if you want to push the boat out!

If cocktails are more your thing, Barazura is the place for you! I’d recommend the Strawberry Daiquiri, Pimms Royal and the Frozen Blue Sky!

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The Atlantis has over a kilometre of beautiful beach front and two huge swimming pools (the Zero entry pool and the Royal Pool). We did visit both pools during our stay but couldn’t stay outside for very long due to the intense heat! Whilst we were sunbathing, staff members came out regularly to give us cold towels, ice creams and bottles of cold water which was a lovely touch. As it was so quiet whilst we were there, we even got extra ice cream! The Zero Entry Pool is designed for families and the Royal Pool has beautiful views of the Dubai Cityscape.

Included in the price of your stay at the Atlantis is unlimited entry to the Aquaventure Water Park and the Lost Chambers Aquarium.

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The Aquaventure Waterpark is brilliant and well worth visiting – there’s something for everyone. We would have stayed in the park longer but the heat got pretty unbearable in the afternoon, to the point where the soles of my feet were burning through my flip flops!

There are waterslides and river rides and activities such as ray feeding, and there’s a relaxation beach as well. The waterslides include Aquaconda, the Leap of Faith, Shark Attack and Poseidon’s revenge (which looks terrifying – you climb into a capsule and the floor falls away so you drop at around 60km an hour! Hubby was brave enough to do it but I worked on my tan instead!) You can find videos of most of these rides on YouTube if you want to judge them for yourself before taking the plunge!

There’s also Dolphin Bay and Sea lion point to check out – dolphin encounters are available but are subject to an extra fee.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is worth checking out (keep an eye open for their baby albino alligator!) In here you will find over 65,000 marine animals and they offer free hourly myth tours.

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We were only in Dubai for 5 days so didn’t have much chance to explore, however on one of the days we visited the Dubai Mall. The mall is the largest in the world by total area and you really could spend days in here if you enjoy shopping! It was very quiet when we visited due to Ramadan, and the restaurants and food halls normally open within the mall were closed; however they had set aside a large area on the top floor in the food hall where you could still choose from a wide range of restaurants and fast food outlets. The choice really is endless!

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The main reason I wanted to visit the Dubai Mall was to visit the viewing deck of the Burj Khalifa, known as At the Top, Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is a metal skyscraper with a total height of 829.8 metres, making it the tallest structure in the world! The At the Top observation deck is on the 124th floor so as you can imagine, the views are spectacular. It is highly recommended that you pre-book, tickets are available here. You can either book tickets for levels 124 and 125, or tickets for the At the Top Sky which includes levels 124, 125 and level 148. Whilst you are at the Dubai Mall (and on the observation deck!), it is also worth checking out the Dubai Fountains, the worlds largest choreographed fountain system.

I really loved Dubai and I would definitely go back – I can see why people continue to go back year on year – it’s an ideal place for couples to get away for a few days and enjoy the luxury that Dubai and The Atlantis has to offer.

Travelzoo do have a similar offer on at the moment to the one I booked, although this latest offer is through a different company – happy holiday hunting!

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