Bonj Les Bains Beach Club Hvar

To celebrate the first birthday of Need Another Holiday, fellow travel blogger Clare came up with a fun idea for a challenge, #Take12Trips. She is on a mission to take 12 trips – one per month – over the next 12 months and inspire others to join in with her.

Like me, Clare works full-time and travels part-time, making the most of annual leave, public holidays and weekends for exploring and jet setting.

Depending on your interests and budget, trips can be local or abroad. It’s about encouraging you to incorporate travel into your everyday life. To see somewhere new and try something different. It might be an international holiday, a day trip, or perhaps going somewhere in your own city. Big and small adventures count. Just enjoy yourself and take the time to plan things you love, but maybe never get around to.

My main purpose for living in London is to travel, so I try to get out of the city each month – there are just too many places I want to see in the world. 2013 has been a busy year with travel to Scotland, Devon, Prague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges and longer trips within Egypt, Croatia and Montenegro. Phew!

Deciding to take part from October when I discovered Clare’s challenge, my 12 trips so far have been:

October

25th of April Bridge Lisbon Portugal

October I enjoyed some sun and Sangria in Portugal where Jessi of Two Feet, One World and I visited Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais.

November

The Roman Baths_Bath

November was a day trip to picturesque Bath and this week I am off to Eastern Europe – Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic – for a white Christmas and to celebrate the welcoming of 2014!

Excited to see what trips the coming months bring. Nothing is booked, or planned… yet.

Set a goal for yourself, or make it your New Years resolution to do a trip, or try something new each month for the next 12 months. Remember to tag #Take12Trips so we can follow each other’s adventures.

For more inspiration and ideas, check out some of the other travel addicts taking part; Two Feet, One World, Kooky Traveller, Glamour In The Country, On The Luce, The Travelbunny and Mummy Travels.

Start exploring,

Queen Mary 2

As Christmas quickly approaches, I have been reminiscing about my Transatlantic crossing on board Curnard’s magnificent Queen Mary 2 this time last year. Thanks to a last minute deal with Iglu Cruise, I was bound for America to tick off a long time dream of mine – to spend Christmas in New York.

It wasn’t until after booking that I realised how elegant the Queen Mary 2 is and what a treat I was in for. She’s the largest, longest, widest, tallest and most expensive passenger liner in history. And she has an enforced dress code each evening – formal, semi-formal, or elegant casual – including a couple of theme nights which included a Black and White Ball and a Royal Ascot Ball this particular voyage.

Uh-oh. Wardrobes were quickly re-evaluated. Backpacking through South East Asia for three months en-route to London did not grant room for any luxury items, let alone clothing that would fit the required dress standards. Heels, an evening dress and even a tux (for Mike) were smartly purchased.

Arriving in Southampton at the QEII terminal on departure day, I stood and watched the concierge take luggage from passengers. As Louis Vuitton trunks and hatboxes piled high were loaded it felt like being transported back in time waiting to board the Titanic (which had also docked nearby in its time). There was definitely an excited buzz amongst passengers as we all waited to embark.

Queen Mary 2 Balcony Room

Queen Mary 2 Champagne

Opening the door to our beautiful balcony room, I knew I was going to be more than happy for the coming week. A bottle of champagne was even on ice to celebrate being on board and kick start the holiday.

Queen Mary 2 Christmas Tree

Queen Mary 2 Grand Lobby

Already a Christmas lover, being on the Queen Mary 2 during the festive season made the whole experience more magical with Christmas trees and decorations throughout the liner.

The fantastic thing about being on a cruise – everything is included (apart from drinks, tips and the casino), so you never need to carry cash. What isn’t included can easily be charged to your room, so it takes a lot of stress out of the holiday.

QM2 Brittania Restaurant

Between the several restaurants and room service, delicious food is available 24/7. The quality and selection is amazing and caters to everyone’s tastes and eating requirements. We ate A LOT including 3-course lunches.

Don’t try, or expect to go on a cruise and lose weight. Enjoy the cuisine.

Theatre and Planetarium

Show

Queen Mary 2 Queens Room

When we wanted to have a break from eating, we were spoilt for choice with other activities, tournaments and things to do – the days usually weren’t long enough to fit everything in. There was also a gym, running track, movie theatre, planetarium, golf simulator, casino, library, indoor and outdoor pools, shops, galleries and tennis courts.

If that didn’t fill the day, there were fitness classes, lectures, workshops, evening shows, live music, cocktail hours with the Captain and 14 bars and lounges to choose from. No matter your age, or interests there is something for everyone on board. Boredom is never an issue.

Mike’s favourite – The Churchill’s Cigar Bar for pre-dinner cigars and whiskey. My favourite – spending several hours in the spa getting pampered with a massage and enjoying all the relaxing spa facilities.

QM2 G32

There was also a nightclub, G32…

QM2 G32 Guest DJ

…Where I gave DJ-ing a go.

Another great thing being Westbound – clocks were wound back an hour on five of the seven nights so passengers were already adjusted to the time zone difference on arrival. This meant getting an extra hours sleep, or an extra hour of dancing in G32. The Captain also announced as we passed near the resting place of the Titanic.

QM2 Queens Room

QM2 Queens Room Tea Service

QM2 Afternoon Tea

Back to the food… Every day at 3.30pm there was a white glove afternoon tea service in the Queens Room where a selection of sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea were available. It was a very popular indulgence with passengers who queued some time before the doors were opened.

Manhattan Skyline

Arriving into New York by ocean liner was pretty special. Passengers were up on deck from 4.30am in the dark to watch the city’s famous skyline and Statue of Liberty come into view. Everyone held their breath as we passed under the Verrazano suspension bridge with only a few feet clearance above the funnel (guess the Captain has done it once or twice before though).

New York Skyline

It was a bit cold…

QM2 Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

The whole cruise experience was amazing – the staff were helpful and friendly, the service exceptional, food was top quality and delicious, plus the range of entertainment and activities was excellent. To top it off we met some wonderful people who we are still in contact with now.

After disembarking at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, I took one last look at the magnificent beauty and said goodbye just as it began to snow. Christmas cruising on Queen Mary 2. What a welcome to Christmas in New York!

Get cruising,

Snorkelling in Vietnam

Some opportunities come about just once in a lifetime; especially those that make you feel giddy with excitement like going on a first date. When they appear, take that leap and go for it. Embrace the new challenge and put yourself out there.

I had a dream that I was travelling and taking part in exciting new opportunities, representing a brand I love while living spontaneously AND it was all being paid for.

STOP THE PRESS!

It wasn’t a dream. Lastminute.com are ACTUALLY looking for a spontaneity champion and are funding up to £50k for a year of spontaneous travel and experiences to one deserving aspirant.

Passionate about travel? Tick… Spontaneous? Tick… Love trying new things? Tick! Sign me up.

There was one minor detail of having to put together a video as part of the entry. It wasn’t an area of expertise for me (aka had never put together a video before), but I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way. I spent all weekend watching YouTube tutorials and shooting videos around London (with the assistance of my fabulous accomplice Mike, who even forfeited watching the All Blacks vs Ireland rugby game to help me).

It was a fun new challenge. Not only did I enjoy putting it together, but it also got me to be a tourist in my own city and look at places I have been before differently.

The Final Product

Let me know what you think of my video entry in the comments. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for when the semi-finalists are announced on 6 December. Such an incredible opportunity that aligns perfectly with my goals and loves in life.

I love nothing more than travelling somewhere on a whim and being spontaneous. I enjoy the mystery, the thrill of the unknown, being flexible and the excitement that feeling free brings.

A Past Spontaneous Getaway

One Friday afternoon I called a best friend of mine (who lived in a different part of New Zealand) to ask if she wanted to go to Sydney, Australia the following day with me for the weekend.

She thought I was a bit crazy, hung up, then called me back a couple of hours later and agreed. We booked and less than 12 hours later – including a three hour international flight – we met in Sydney for a fun, spontaneous getaway.

Sometimes the best plans are the ones that are unplanned.

Embracing spontaneity,

Croatia Beach

Croatia had some high expectations to live up to. Before visiting, countless people had told me what an amazing place it was, but I still wasn’t prepared for how quickly I would fall in love with it.

Friendly locals, picture perfect views, clear turquoise water, charming cobbled towns and delicious, fresh food – I was in my utopia. With the Summer heat of July to top it off, Croatia easily entered my top five favourite countries and is somewhere I would return in a heartbeat.

Rental Car Zagreb

After flying into Zagreb, we packed our rental car to the brim and set off to Rakovica – our small village base to explore the nearby Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lower Lakes

We spent a day walking around Plitvice Lakes and I have never seen so many shades of green, blue and turquoise in one place. Each lake is a different colour and changes constantly throughout the year. The natural beauty of the lakes, waterfalls, greenery and colours makes it a pretty special destination.

Croatia Merchandise

The following day it was back into the rental car with a quick stopover in Split before catching a ferry to Vis – Croatia’s most distant island. Split port was buzzing with tourists, merchandise stalls for those essential last minute purchases and tour boats ready to set sail for the coming week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we pulled into the harbour of Vis Town I was excited by the approaching view – this was the Croatia I had been anticipating. Tiered terracotta roofs, old stone buildings and yachts lining the waterfront.

Kut_Vis Croatia

Stiniva Cove Vis Croatia

Even in peak season, Vis felt relaxed and wasn’t crowded. We spent our days watching sunrises, swimming, eating amazing food (I’m sure we ate our weight in Carpaccio), exploring the island on scooters and enjoying other beaches and sights including the blue cave by private boat.

We had an amazing few days on Vis and when the time came to leave and I watched the island disappear into the distance behind us I felt sad leaving my new found paradise. I left for Hvar with dreams of returning and building a holiday home on Vis. One day.

Hvar harbour

While I have a soft spot for Vis, Hvar is the slightly cooler older brother – a bit more vibrant, a bit livelier and likes to party. Hvar has something to offer every age, which is what makes it such a popular destination.

Bonj Les Bains Hvar Croatia

This was actually my view for a whole day while Relaxing At Bonj ‘Les Bains’ Beach Club.

After a few days of more swimming and eating our way around Hvar (notice a theme?), it was time to move on to Dubrovnik.

To see more of Croatia we hired another rental car and drove to Dubrovnik from Split (it also meant we got to briefly enter Bosnia, although they barely glimpsed at our passports and alas, no stamp either). I was amused that our rental car came with optional wi-fi. We really are becoming an instant, connected world.

Dubrovnik Old Town Rooftops

Dubrovnik old town

Dubrovnik’s old town is stunning and a walk along its surrounding walls is a must. It is the perfect way to see the old town and it’s sea of terracotta roof tops.

More to come on each of these beautiful destinations.

Cheers Hvar Croatia Bonj Les Bains

Cheers to Croatia!