Maleficent Adventures

Travelling Around the World

Author: Lucy Magoolagan

Top 9 Things to do in New York City

Lucy and her husband took a 4 night trip to New York the week before Christmas to enjoy the festivities in the Big Apple. These are the top 9 activities they would recommend you add to your itinerary.

 

  1. Go to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

This was absolutely my favourite thing we did on our trip. Lady Liberty is so beautiful and quite something to behold in the flesh! We booked pedestal access in advance, this is crucial information to know as these tickets sell out as soon as they go up online. I wanted to get Crown access but we left it one day longer to book and they were all gone for the days we were there.

We still got amazing views from the pedestal and would definitely recommend it, especially if you have smaller children as  there are fewer steps to climb.

You book through the official National Parks website, and pick the time of your ferry departure. We went for 9am on the second day of our trip because we decided that jetlag would mean that we would be up bright and early.

This was true, and the island was deserted when we arrived meaning we had a nice casual morning taking our time. When we were leaving to go to Ellis Island the boats arriving were twice as full as the one we arrived on!

The ticket includes a round trip to Elllis island, which is also well worth a visit. They give you a free audio guide, allowing you to work your way around the exhibits at your own pace. Again, because it was early on we didn’t feel rushed, and crowds were almost non-existent.

We come from an Irish family, with half of our descendants migrating to America through this building so it always feels very emotional to stand in this hall. It is a great place to visit, and is a bargain, for only £18 each for two attractions, a boat trip and audio guides.

 

  1. Rockefeller Centre

Our visit was at Christmas so obviously we had to call by to see the famous tree and ice rink.

The whole place is beautiful, from Radio City Music Hall:

To the Top of the Rock – which in my opinion, gives you the best views in the city. We opted for an evening view because I wanted to see the Empire State Building lit up for Christmas, but the views during the daytime are just as good.

 

  1. Walking tour – Grand Central Terminal/Chrysler Building/Public Library/Empire State Building/Bryant Park

I always make sure I have a Lonely Planet guide for the city I am visiting, mostly because they provide great ways to see the city – self guided walking tours! This one was a really good way to get some air but also see a lot of the architectural landmarks in the area. First off, start at Grand Central Terminal (not a station, a terminus!).

Don’t forget to call by the whispering gallery, where you and a friend can talk to each other from across the room using the architectural magic of the alcoves. There aren’t any signs for it (that we could see, but we followed the Dining Concourse signs and on our way out from there we came across it.

The building is so beautiful it is well worth a wander, even if you haven’t got a train to catch!

 

  1. Central Park

We had a few jaunts in central park, I think it would be much more enjoyable in the summer as most of the grass areas were cordoned off (presumably to help growth in the winter). None-the-less, it was still nice to get a break from the hoards of people on 5th Avenue and Times Square and the Bethesda Fountain and surrounding area are featured in so many films that its worth a visit.

 

  1. Brooklyn Bridge

This iconic bridge is well worth a visit, and very easy to walk across to get the full impact of this beautiful structure. We were already in Williamsburg at the brewery, so we walked from the Brooklyn side towards Manhattan and the views were great – despite the weather being miserable.

Top tip: Pick up a pretzel on your way onto the bridge to keep you going!

 

  1. Brooklyn Brewery

Me and my husband are huge beer fans and visit breweries in most cities we visit (see: Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Bruges, San Francisco, Monterey, Las Vegas…), so naturally we weren’t going to miss out on one of the most famous in the world.

You buy beer tokens when you enter the building, and this makes buying beers much quicker and smoother. Sipping iconic and seasonal brews within these hipster surrounds is the perfect way to while away an afternoon. They have an ever-changing food truck outside to cater for those of you who don’t want a liquid lunch!

Top picks: Bel Air Sour and Defender IPA

 

  1. Walking tour – Flat iron/High Line/Chelsea Market/Meatpacking

Another great walk, with two from the book (Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to New York) merged together. We walked to the Flat Iron district and had a mosey round Eataly – which is a huge food court/department store/eatery, it was amazing with Italian food as far as the eye could see. This is a definite lunch stop to be added to your itinerary.

We carried on down to around 30th street, where we joined the High Line.

The High Line is the old New York Central Rail Road, which has been converted into a public walkway, with green spaces and seating to look out over the roads below. It was really nice to be able to walk without having to stop at every single road for traffic. This made the rest of our walk to Chelsea Market much more enjoyable.

Chelsea Market is a converted factory complex housing shops, eateries and businesses. It had so much to offer in terms of food and drink, and was also great for buying last minute unique Christmas presents. There was a whole area reserved for market stalls where sellers were offering their hand made original wares.

 

  1. Check out the window displays on 5th Avenue

I’m not sure how relevant this is outside of the holidays, but the Christmas displays on 5th avenue were amazing. Saks this year were celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with windows all along the front telling the story with moving puppets and scenery.

Bergdorf Goodman had a homage to iconic attractions in the city including the Natural History Museum in Swarovski crystals (mesmerising) and a neon trumpet scene for the Philharmonic.

 

  1. Twin Towers Memorial

I don’t think there could be a more perfect way to remember the towers, and what happened here in 2001, than to leave the foot prints of the buildings empty. The void left in the space of the towers speaks volumes.

The reflecting pools and enormous waterfalls give a timeless element to the memorial, surrounded by trees rustling, you can’t help but feel moved standing on this site.

We did not visit the museum, instead we opted for the One World Observatory.

The views are really good, and on a clear day you feel like you can see for miles.

We did however, find this to be a bit gimmicky, although the lifts are an experience all on their own, it does give you a different view to the options in midtown (Empire State/Rockefeller).

We much preferred the Top of the Rock, in terms of views and the building, the Rockefeller’s art deco interior just has much more character than the sleek insides of One World.

 

We hope this article helps you plan/decide on your next trip! If you agree or disagree with any of our opinions, reach out to us on social we’d love to hear your thoughts!

This holiday was booked with British Airways Holidays – a great way to find a deal by combining hotel and flights.

Genie’s Cave Afternoon Tea

Last week Lucy was very fortunate to be treated to afternoon tea by her dear friend, and because it was Disney themed we thought it would be worth a mention!

You can find it in the basement of Cutter & Squidge, a bakery in Soho (London) just down the street from The Prince Edward Theatre where Aladdin The Musical is currently playing. I didn’t have time to see the show, but I imagine two combined would be the perfect way to spend a day with your Disney loving bestie.

As you enter the basement, the magic and wonder begin…

There are heaps of treasure everywhere and the décor is just perfect!

First, you get to order your tea, we went for Moroccan mint – because, when in Rome!

When it arrived, it came in a magic lamp themed teapot that could have been straight out of the show!

And yes, the table is sparkling gold too….

The Moroccan tea was made with fresh mint leaves, just the way I like it. It was a good accompaniment to the food because it was a nice palate cleanser to jump between sweet and savoury (and back again!).

We also opted for the prosecco, just to make everything that extra bit magical, the afternoon tea on its own is £29.50, and £34.50 with prosecco. There is also a child’s option, which is a smaller portion (at a smaller cost too!).

Moments after we had sat down and ordered our tea, the first course was up.

A Genie’s Welcome: This was a sort of raspberry and pomegranate creamy/yoghurt mix topped with some wisps of candy floss (cotton candy) and a meringue we had to break through – very imaginative and delicious!

Though, be careful when taking children, as I saw the little girl on the table next to ours get a bit over enthusiastic breaking her meringue and smashed the glass into her dessert…

Once we had finished this, our afternoon tea stand arrived, chock full of delights and an additional plate with sandwiches accompanied it! It was safe to say we were overloaded with food, and neither of us managed to finish everything we were given. We gave it a jolly good try though!

Yep, everything is served on golden platters, all the cutlery is gold and the tea set has a gold trim… the theming is executed brilliantly!

First to the sandwiches: coronation chicken, cucumber and mint and cheese and tomato jam. All good, a pretty standard run of the mill, but tasty selection.

The Desert Rose Tart (pictured with the sandwiches), Savoury Scone Swirls and Golden Cheese Clouds were great additions to the savoury selection. A twist on the usual (in my opinion) boring scone was a welcome change. I was obviously so obsessed with them that I ate them before taking a photo… If you look close enough you can see them on the bottom tier of the cake stand.

Let’s move onto something sweeter.

Raspberry & Rose Tart sprinkled with Emeralds: such a bold flavour from such a small tart.

Magic Carpet Cookies: very light biscuit (sugar cookie) with a very delicate design so they look just like carpet!

Golden Treasure Biskie: these did actually have a hidden surprise, what I thought was going to be a generic Malteaser or a lump or chocolate contained a caramel centre and it was great! It complimented the soft (macaron-like) biscuit perfectly. The gold leaf decoration on top just added to the opulence of the meal.

Hidden Gem Macaron: Peanut butter and raspberry jam macaron, need say more. Except that – the cocoa lamp detail is adorable and genius!

Ruby Dream Cake: now I saved this one till last as it was in my eyes – perfection. The vanilla sponge was light and perfectly complimented by the strawberry filling. I spent the meal trying bits of everything, so that I could get a taste for everything but not leave there feeling sick, but I could not put this one down. The addition of Abu’s ruby on the top just really brought it all together for me, a very well thought out selection of cakes and pastries.

As we paid we were given a final parting gift – some treasure of our own!

Which is handy because it was almost too tempting to grab some off the walls for ourselves!

This wonderfully immersive experience is one I would recommend as a gift to ANY Disney fan. The décor is amazing, down to every golden teaspoon. They even have Disney music playing out through the speakers and it’s just all-round Dis-tastic.

The service was great, I definitely think it is worth the money as I did not need to eat for the rest of the day!

Thanks Cutter and Squidge for a great experience!

9 Things To Do In Venice, Italy

Lucy and her husband went to Venice in June, here are the top 9 things they recommend:

  1. Taking in St Mark’s square with a post-dinner drink
    It is very expensive in the square, so we would only recommend one tipple to finish off your evening with a touch of class. The square is all lit up and the ambiance from the orchestra makes it magical.

  1. Views of the Grand Canal
    No matter where you cross this iconic canal, the views are always spectacular. Whilst the Rialto bridge is obviously a must see, we found it to be much less crowded on the Ponte dell’Accademia, with just as nice a view.

  1. Wander the backstreets with no destination or purpose
    The beauty in Venice lies not only in its popular tourist hot spots (Campanille, Doge’s Palace), but in the architecture of the city itself. Wandering through the backstreets, finding hidden passage ways and tiny bridges kept us busy for hours – and is also the best way to find popular local eateries and bars.

  1. Eat local
    We used the Lonely Planet guide (I rarely travel without one) to help locate osterias and ristorantes that the locals love. It not only gives you a better feel for a city, but we also found them to be much cheaper. Venice is great for its own version of tapas – cichetti, which we fell in love with and ate for nearly every meal. Our main eating rule: NEVER eat somewhere with a picture board of the food – these are tourist traps with huge prices attached.

Recommendations for Venice:

Posso Pomo Doro (Calle Larga San Marco) great modern take on rustic Italian food, fantastic desserts.

Pasticceria Dal Mas (Rio Terà Lista di Spagna) –  bakery for great cannoli and other sweet treats, we also had some beautiful macarons here:

Barco Risotto (Campo San Provolo): We asked behind the bar what all the cichetti were and then also for a wine pairing. The staff were so helpful and the food and wine were delicious!

Osteria ai Osti (Corte dei Pali già Testori) – This place was a random find, tucked away down a back street. We were aiming for Cà D’Oro alla Vedova but after being stood in the door and ignored by staff walking past us for 5 minutes we decided to take out business elsewhere – and we were glad we did. It was VERY rustic – we did not understand most of the menu and ordered blindly (no signal to use google translate!). However, the service was fantastic, the food delicious and the prosecco 2.50 Euros a glass – perfecto! We were also too busy enjoying ourselves to take any photos, sorry! There are some good ones on the google maps page though.

Osteria Dei Sapori (Fondamenta Trapolin) – perfect for a spot of people watching and cichetti:

Al Ponte Storto Osteria con cuchina (Ponte Storto, San Polo) – This place was fantastic, super fresh ingredients, great staff and a very nice quiet corner to get away from the crowds.

  1. Try the gelato
    You might think this needs to come under the food tip, wrong. Gelato is a way of life in Venice (and Italy – see our Tuscany blog), and we made it our purpose to visit as many different gelaterias as possible. All except one were recommended by our Lonely Planet guide, and were all fantastic.

Recommendations for Gelato:

Gelato Fantasy (Calle dei Fabbri) – because I am a real hunter of KitKat ice cream we sought out this place, and I was not disappointed.

Suso (Calle della Bissa) – amazing flavours, and always so crowded. Definitely try the pistachio, it comes with a nut butter top layer (pictured below) and it is phenomenal.

Alaska Gelateria (Calle Larga dei Bari) – great flavours but they were a bit melty and there were no waffle cones.

Magnum Pleasure Store (Fondamenta S. Simeone Piccolo) – We are kind of ashamed to say we visited this place, because it isn’t Italian in the slightest. However, it is delicious so: sorry – not sorry.

  1. Visit local attractions
    Whilst on this trip, we kept it to strictly food, drink and wanderings; on previous trips however, I have visited the main tourist lures.

If you are low on funds then choose one, I would recommend the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), where you can walk through various rooms of the palace and also visit the bridge of sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri).

The Guggenheim is a great way to see a grand collection of art.

St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is also a beautiful building to visit, but arrive early as the queue can stretch as long as the square later on in the day. There are a whole host of museums and churches well worth a visit.

  1. Visit Rialto
    We took a walking tour out of our Lonely Planet guide called “Venice Gourmet Crawl”, where we visited the Rialto market and Pescaria – where all local produce is bought by chefs and café owners for the day’s menu.

We went to Caffe del Doge a fantastic coffee shop and perfect for breakfast.

Wandered the streets, finding a great viewing point of the Grand Canal by the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia.

Finishing by Alaska Gelateria (see tip 5), which, despite flavours being good here, the gelato was quite wet and melted very quickly. Still worth a visit though.

The Rialto bridge is also spectacular at night.

  1. Visit the islands
    This time we went to Murano – home of glass making in Venice.

It is a quaint little island with a lot of shops selling glass items, and a few factories where you can actually see the glass blowers at work.

The museum here (Museo del Vetro) is also a good place to visit to learn about the processes and see the current artist installation – which is pretty much mind blowing (pun intended).

You can easily buy tickets and hop aboard the waterbus to any of the islands, which works like a metro in any city with the stops along the way signposted and arrival times marked clearly.

We had lunch at Osteria al Duomo which was fantastic! We sat out in the walled garden behind the restaurant, which was beautiful and highly recommended.

  1. Drink!
    The region produces Prosecco, so it would be rude not to sample a couple of local glasses. We particularly recommend a visit to Al Prosecco for a glass of the old style ‘natural process’ wines, where you can get a glass of unfiltered (cloudy) prosecco. It definitely has a yeasty flavour to it, but worth a try, great on a hot afternoon. One of the things you’ll also see people sipping around the city is a glass of Aperol Spritz, which was invented by Austrian immigrants that lived in Venice. Whilst prosecco suits me just fine, I can get why it is such a popular drink – it can be quite refreshing on a hot afternoon. There are also a couple of local breweries on the island worth visiting.

Bar recommendations:

Al Prosecco (Sestiere Santa Croce) – set in a beautiful square, it is perfect for people watching and was full of locals (so you know it’s good).

Bar 1 Ciak (Campiello San Tomà) – another great spot in a shaded square, plenty of people milling through perfect for sitting back and taking in your surroundings and planning your next move.

Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend Half Marathon

Just a month to go before the 2nd Disneyland Paris RunDisney event. Last year we took part in the Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend. Holly, by running the Ratatouille 5K and Lucy, taking part in the half marathon.

Here we both reflect on our journeys.

Lucy’s half marathon memories:

As soon as I heard there was going to be a RunDisney race at Disneyland Paris, I immediately persuaded my husband and best friend that we were doing it. It was just a matter of cost, but once we priced it up it was just about within budget. The race, accommodations, three days of park tickets (two parks + park hopper) and our flights came in around £400. But, four adults to a room isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so choose your companions wisely!

I had run a few 5ks and one 10k two years prior, so I knew if I put my mind to it I could go the distance. I have never been a fast runner, so I focussed on finishing regardless of what time I achieved and this took the pressure off. My training programme went pretty smoothly and whilst it was hard, I enjoyed my new-found fitness level and the positive affect it had on my daily mood.

Race day was nerve wracking, everyone else in my team had been reporting a much faster pace than me, so I knew after the first couple of miles I was going to be on my own. The start line was a bit of a shambles to be honest, we were in corral C (which I would not advise to anyone). We got there at 6:00am, and did not cross the start line till 8:00am. Starving and cold is not the best way to start your first half marathon. Hopefully, over the next couple of years DLP will get these bugs out of their system, I understand these things cannot be completely planned for on the first try.

The first three miles took part in the parks, and it was awesome – everything you would have dreamed it to be. However, as soon as mile three was up, that was it, out the backdoor and into the wilderness. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. The route is convoluted and when you pass people that are miles ahead of you, it can get a bit depressing. I remember at 8km the last member of my party saying their goodbye and leaving me for dust. I had with me my playlist, gel packs and drive to cross the finish line.

I managed to keep up my 12-minute mile pace (told you I was slow), and along the way the marching bands and African drum groups kept me going. Like Holly said, there were a lot of people in costume and that was fairly entertaining.

The hardest part was the finish, I got to the lake by Hotel New York and thought “this must be it!”, I saw Holly with our Mum and my friend cheering me on, promising it was not much further. This is a lie. My advice to you is this: when you get to the lake, prepare for ANOTHER MILE AND A HALF. It’s cruel, but once it’s over…. It’s over.

You put your medal around your neck and you spend the day strutting around the parks like the Queen you are (if you can get your legs to work that is). I would definitely do this again, but maybe in a few years’ time when they have it running like clockwork.

Together as a group we raised money for MND and Prostate Cancer UK which are charities close to our hearts. After a hearty effort from all – and really very generous donations from our friends and family which definitely kept us going during training, we managed to raise over almost £6,000, through our just giving page:
https://www.justgiving.com/teams/disneyhalfmarathon

We’d like to thank everyone for their support, as it made such a big difference.

Read about Holly’s 5k reflections or see our tips on preparing RunDisney race

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Facebook
Facebook
Instagram