Our Amazing Holiday Part 4 - Las Vegas the Encore Days

Now if you know me or if your a long time follower of this blog you will know just how much Tom and I both love Vegas, and with this trip completed we have now been there 8 times. People often ask us what it is we like so much about it and to be honest I really cannot answer that question. We don't gamble that much, we don't go to pool parties or night clubs and we don't drink to excess. I don't know what it is but there is just something about Vegas that is slightly bewitching and its this that draws us back time after time. I have lost count of the number of times I have said that we wont be going back for a few years as we are taking a break from it and we end up booking another trip. Anyway this was our first trip to our happy place since Oct 2015 and although that was a great trip it was also quite draining as we were both carrying the ends of really heavy colds and chest/sinus infections. In hindsight I don't think we enjoyed that trip as much as we had hoped and we certainly didn't do as much as we had planned as we just didn't seem to have the energy or enthusiasm. Anyway as we did manage to do so much this trip this is another long and photo heavy post, hope you enjoy it.

So Thursday June 1st had finally arrived - it was time to get up, pack up and head off to Vegas baby (part 8)! After breakfast on the hotel terrace we set off on the 4+ hour journey through LA and the Mojave desert. Having been warned about the heat going through Death Valley we made sure that we had plenty of fuel and that we had water and snacks to keep us going. The drive wasn't that bad at all, we made one brief stop at Peggy Sues diner which was pretty cool to see, if your ever driving this way make sure you pop in and ladies make sure you check out the toilets. The scenery in parts was amazing, the desert was stunning to look at but as we got further out of LA and closer to Vegas the outside temperature was climbing higher and higher, it was getting HOT out there.

In the end the drive took us a little over 4.5 hours, seeing Vegas glistening in the distance as we were approaching was pretty cool and certainly got out excitement levels rising. When we were planning this trip we were pretty undecided on where we wanted to stay this time, and in the end we had two hotels (the Encore and the Cosmopolitan) on our shortlist. As we couldn't narrow it down to one we made the decision to split our trip and spend three nights at each with our first three nights at the Encore. As we pulled up to the valet station we were totally wowed by the level of customer service and as we entered the hotel the wows didn't stop coming. The hotel is stunningly beautiful, its most definitely the best hotel we have ever stayed in. Check in was a breeze, our host was lovely and she made sure that we had a great room on the 61st floor with a view towards downtown Vegas and the mountains. We even received a gift of a little box of chocolates from her as she knew we were there to celebrate our anniversary. The room was beautiful and the view from the floor to ceiling windows was pretty amazing. The Encore is one of the top, and therefore more expensive hotels in Vegas but that title and the price tag are very well deserved. I could not fault the hotel in any way, shape or form and going forward this will now be our Vegas home, even if I have to sell a body part to be able to stay here.
After we had unpacked we headed out to the North Outlet village for a spot of shopping. There are two outlet villages in Vegas but the North one is by far our fave. We spent a good few hours wandering around and buying ourselves some new clothes etc. With the weak exchange rate things are certainly not as cheap as they used to be but there are still plenty of bargains to be had if you shop around. We headed back to the hotel to drop off all our goodies and then made our way down to the Vegas icon that is the Peppermill. We have been here once before on a previous trip but that was to the main restaurant, on this visit we were going to try the Fireside Lounge. This is somewhere that was recommended to us and it was fab, a really lovely laid back cocktail lounge with a indoor fire pit. We spent a couple of hours just chilling out and enjoying some drinks and the biggest plate of nachos ever! The night was finished off with a couple more drinks in the lobby bar of our hotel.

The first full Vegas day dawned and although we had plans we were in no rush so we just enjoyed the comfort of our room and took our time getting showered and dressed. We took a leisurely stroll along the Strip and ended up at the Bellagio as we wanted to see the display in the Botanical Gardens, as usual it looked and smelt amazing.
We also walked through Caesars Forum shops where I shopped a little more (yes I love to shop and I LOVE to shop in the States). I picked up some bits in Sephora, A&F and Victoria's Secret before we realized we needed to dash over to Harrahs Piano Bar for to catch the Big Elvis show. Pete Vallee has been performing as Elvis for years and years and every time we go to Vegas we say we will go and catch one of his shows but we have never managed it until now. Its a free show although its in a bar so I guess you are expected to buy a couple of drinks. I am so pleased that we finally managed to see the show, I even got a picture with the man himself. Honestly if your in Vegas and you like Elvis and fancy a fun hour singing along get yourself down to Harrahs, just check the show times before you go as they are subject to change.
We went back to the hotel to chill out and freshen up before heading out for the evening. Our plans for tonight didn't involve us going to far, we just walked down to the Linq where we did a ride on the High Roller (like the London Eye but higher). Last time we were in Vegas we did a night time ride which was amazing and we decided before we went away that we would like to do it again but this time during daylight hours. Its a pretty cool way of getting a birds eye view of Vegas and the surrounding area. Dinner tonight was in one of our fave Vegas restaurants - Margaritaville. We both love it here, its a really cool, fun place to eat and the food is great too. After dinner we went next door to the 5 o'clock somewhere bar which is also part of Margaritaville and is somewhere that we like to go. However on this occasion we didn't like it as much as previous years, service wasn't as attentive as it usually is and the bar area was filthy, it looked like it hadn't been cleaned in god knows how long. Anyway we had one drink and then headed off to finish our night elsewhere.

Saturday dawned and we were up and out early as we had tickets to the Neon Museum in Downtown Las Vegas. Now I have wanted to visit here for ages and I am so glad that we finally managed it, honestly if you are into Vegas history you have to come here. For now I am just sharing a couple of pics as I plan to do a separate post on the museum at a later date. We also went to the Mob Museum which was ok but after about 20/30 mins I was a little bored. Tom enjoyed it though as he is pretty interested in the mob and all that.

Once back at the hotel we decided to have a little pool time but that only lasted about 1.5 hours as it was sooooo hot, I think it was around 104 degrees! Far too hot for us.

Saturday night was our big night out to celebrate our anniversary in Vegas. We had made a reservation at a restaurant in the Encore called Sinatra which is Italian with a modern twist. The restaurant was really busy but we were given a fab table by the windows that overlooked the outdoor patio and we were also given cards to wish us a happy anniversary and Tom a happy birthday. The food and service were amazing and the chocolate dessert which we shared was the best, I am so glad that we chose to have a pudding in the end as we very nearly opted not to have one. Its not a cheap restaurant but if your celebrating a special occasion or you just want to treat yourselves then give it a try.
After the meal we took a stroll over to the Wynn where we had a couple of drinks on the outside terrace in Parasol Down. Its the perfect place to just sit back and enjoy a cocktail or two in beautiful and relaxing surroundings. We finished the night off by playing (and winning) on the slots. Sadly this was our last night in the Encore, tomorrow morning we would be packing up and heading to the Cosmopolitan for our last 3 nights.

Thanks for stopping by, and if you made it all the way through this post I thank you! Please feel free to leave a comment.

Love and hugs, Jane xx

Our Amazing Holiday Part 3 - Disneyland

Another day another post - this one will cover the two days that we spent in Disneyland. Hope you enjoy it! Before I go any further with details of the days I will just let you know that when we first planned this holiday it was me, and me only that wanted to go to Disney. Tom really wasn't that keen but he agreed anyway as he knew how much I wanted to go there. A few weeks before we went we started to watch You Tube videos of the park and rides and he became slightly more interested. However since we have been he is now well and truly hooked and already planning a return visit - who says Disney is just for kids?

Disneyland was about an hours drive from where we were staying but we had heard bad things about the LA traffic, especially during rush hours so we made the decision to get up extra early to start our day. As it was it wasn't too bad a journey and the only little bit of traffic we did hit was just a couple of miles before the Disney turnoff. As you come off the freeway you are straight onto Disneyland Drive and the first sight of the signs announcing this made me burst into a huge grin - it was time to get my ears on. Getting into the parking lot was no problem at all, we were parked, through security and on the tram to the park gates in about 10/15 mins. We had booked our tickets on line directly with Disneyland and I had printed off the vouchers that they had sent me. We were directed straight to the main gates where a lovely lady exchanged the vouchers for our 2 day park hopper tickets and with that done in a matter of minutes we were in the park standing at the top of Main Street - at this point I think I may have cried just a little.
The Happiest Place in the World
As it was still early it wasn't too busy so we headed straight down to the camera shop where we bought a Photo Pass. Basically this is a little card that has a bar code on that links to your Disneyland account. All around the parks are official Disney photographers - you just head on up to them and they take your photo with a character or in front of the castle etc. At the end of snapping away they scan your pass and then your pics are online for you to view and download to your own pc or laptop. You can also upload them straight to Facebook if you want to. The photographers take loads of pics and they will also take some on your own camera or phone which is pretty handy. If you want to have plenty of photographic memories of your hols I highly recommend you get one of these passes.

We spent the entire morning doing rides and finding characters to have our photos taken with and we managed to do all the rides we wanted to to with the exception of a couple that had super long queues. We were both loving the atmosphere, it was a lovely warm day but it wasn't to hot so any queuing that we did wasn't uncomfortable at all. I think the longest queue we had was around one hour and that was for Pirates of the Caribbean which was pretty popular due to the new film having just been released. It was now a little after lunchtime and as we hadn't had much in the way of breakfast we headed to the River Belle terrace for lunch. Tom had a beef brisket sandwich and I had a pulled pork sandwich. Both were lovely and were not huge portions, we had a table outside so we could sit and people watch while eating. Lunch done we continued to stroll around just enjoying all that Disney has to offer. It was considerably busier now though, this was largely in part due to local schools now being on holiday and something called Grad night. We headed round towards Splash Mountain which was high on our list of rides to do but the queue was massive - I think the sign said a min of' 1 hour 30 min wait so we decided to skip that for now. I did a quick check on the park app on my phone and saw that the queue time for Soarin over in the California Adventure park was only around 30/40 mins so we decided to head over there and do that while we could. There are only two Disney parks in Anaheim and they are both opposite each other so its really easy to park hop, you just come out of one walk across the square and there is the other one. Soarin was amazing and was by far our most fave ride of all the ones we did - if you are headed to Disney anytime soon I highly recommend it. Our plans were to stay in the parks late as we wanted to see the Main Street Electrical parade which was due to happen around 8.45pm. By now it was still only about 5ish so we headed to the shops and food places in Downtown Disney where we treated ourselves to yummy ice cream sundaes from Haagen Dazs. I also did a little bit of shopping and bought a hoodie and a Disney Pandora bracelet.

We headed back into the main park so we could find ourselves a spot to where we could sit and wait and watch the parade. Its lucky we found a spot when we did as pretty soon the whole of Main Street was lined with people. The parade was amazing and I was so glad we decided to stay for it (cue more teary moments from me!!). It was a truly magical way to end our first day in Disney.
Day two in Disney was a slightly more relaxed affair. We slept in and left a little later but as we hit no traffic today we were in the park just over an hour after we left Marina del Rey. We went straight into Disneyland to do the Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones rides and then headed over to California Adventure. It was a lot busier today and because of that a lot of the rides had much longer queue times. We did a few but we also ended up skipping a few because of this. The new Guardians of the Galaxy ride had a wait time of +160 mins and that was at 11am!! We had a leisurely walk around and did a few more rides, including Mickeys Fun Wheel (or not so fun wheel - seriously I thought I was going to die). We stopped for a light lunch in Starbucks and then headed back to the other park for one last character meet -  there was no way I was not going to get my pic done with Daisy and Donald Duck! With this done we took one last look around and headed out - our time at Disney was over (for this year). Honestly I could have quite happily stayed there all day but we needed to head back as we had plans for our last evening.

We spent our last night with Chris, he picked us up and drove us around a few more of the sights before we headed to the Grove in LA for a lovely meal in Marmalade. We finished the night off with a couple of drinks on the hotel terrace before heading to bed. The next chapter of our holiday was just one nights sleep away!!

Hope you are enjoying my trip report, please pop back soon for the next installment.

Love and hugs, Jane xx

Our Amazing Holiday Part 2 - Marina Del Rey & LA

So here I am with Part 2 of our most amazing holiday report, this post will cover the first couple of days (Marina del Rey/LA/Santa Monica). Part 3 will be all about Disney and then Parts 4 and 5 will cover the Vegas days which I am splitting as we stayed in two different hotels. This post is a little longer than what I normally post and is heavier on the photos so make yourself comfy and settle down for a read. I really do hope you enjoy what I am sharing with you, please feel free to leave me a comment if you do as I love to know what you think.

Arrival Day
So despite the early start, the 11 hour flight and the -8 hour time difference we were pretty refreshed and raring to go when we arrived.  We collected our hire car from the Thrifty unit just outside of LAX airport (there is a shuttle bus from the main terminal to take you there). Tom just loves the car hire system in the USA as you get to pick your own car unlike Europe where your car is assigned to you. We had booked a mid size SUV and there were plenty to choose from, in fact himself was like a kid in a candy store walking up and down the line of vehicles debating which one he liked the best in the end I do believe the car he eventually chose was a Nissan Rogue....as a non driver I don't take too much notice of these things. My opinion was requested but I was too busy taking in the gorgeous LA day and the beautiful blue skies, oh it was so good to finally feel some sun on my skin.

We had borrowed a satnav from a friend and was pleased to find that our first destination was no more than 20/30 mins away. There was hardly any traffic on our drive so it wasn't too long before we were pulling up at the valet station of the Jamaica Bay Inn in Marina del Rey. I found this hotel simply by doing some online research and by checking out reviews etc on Trip Advisor, turns out that all paid off as it was a great place to base ourselves. The JBI is a gorgeous beach themed hotel right on a little bay overlooking Mothers Beach and a marina filled with fabulous boats. We had a city view room and overlooked the front of the hotel but for an extra fee you can request a room with a marina/beach view. The hotel has a restaurant and bar and offers in-room dining but there are also plenty of other places nearby including a Cheesecake Factory! The room itself was lovely, it was spacious, clean and comfortable with loads of storage for your clothes and very importantly it had a coffee maker - perfect for all those early morning starts. The bathroom had a shower, a tub and a separate toilet plus there were plenty of soft, fluffy towels, a hairdryer and some Molten Brown bath/body products to use. If I have one negative thing to say about the room it would be that it was a little on the dark side as it only had two small windows and they were covered with dark wood shutters but it honestly wasn't a problem for us at all. One other thing to point out is that the room also had a fireplace which was a godsend on the first night. It wasn't cold at all but the room AC had been on while we were out, that together with jet-lag and tiredness made us feel a little chilly so we put the fire on low for a little while and we were soon toasty warm. All in all we had a lovely 4 night stay, all the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful and I would have no hesitation in either staying here again or recommending it to friends and family. Probably next time though we would book a marina view room, especially one of the ones that comes with a balcony.
Our Room
 The View from the Restaurant/Bar Terrace over Mothers Beach

We unpacked quickly and then headed straight out to get some fresh air and to have a walk about and explore a little. As it was Memorial Day weekend the beachfront was packed, at points there were so many people it was hard to get through especially where the street performers were doing their thing but this didnt bother us too much as we were in no rush. We walked past Muscle Beach and luckily for us there were a couple of guys working out on the equipment there.....

The beach itself was gorgeous, huge and wide with soft golden sands and with all the little lifeguard huts dotted along it looked just like something from Baywatch. There were loads of people on the beach too, some just enjoying the day and some partaking in water sports, volleyball, dancing - you name it and it was going on. The path that takes you from Marina del Rey down to Santa Monica also goes through Venice Beach which was full of colorful, unusual and some downright crazy looking characters, it really was a place to people watch!! The beachfront is a wide palm tree lined avenue that is full of shops, restaurants and bars. There are also parks, public toilets and a cycle path, basically there is something for everyone. The walk took us a lot longer than we thought it would and for a while we wondered if we would ever reach Santa Monica as we couldn't see the pier at all, however as we rounded a bend it suddenly appeared bathed in a haze of sunshine. Before long we were standing on the pier right by the famous end of Route 66 sign - another American icon ticked off our list of places to visit (we do have plans to one day travel from the start to the end of Route 66).

The sun was now starting to set and the pier was a little packed for our liking, also by now jet-lag and hunger were kicking in so we decided that now would be a good time to eat and think about making our way back to our hotel. We had wanted to go to Bubba Gump's on the pier but the queue was awful so we set about decided to just go straight back to the hotel but as neither of us wanted to walk we needed to try and find a taxi. We couldn't find one along the seafront for love nor money so we kind of just wandered into Santa Monica central to see if we could find one there. Hot, hungry and jaded we turned into a shopping area and as we glanced up there in front of us was the most wonderful sight - a great big sign for the Cheesecake Factory!! Yay food had found us, it was going to be ok after all. At first we were a little put off by another big queue but the host assured us it would only be a short wait and it was - 15 mins later we were in our booth and deciding what we wanted to eat. I cant quite remember but I think I had a turkey burger from the Skinny-licious menu and Tom had some kind of club sandwich. After our meal and after declining cheesecake (on this occasion) we finally found a taxi and made it back to our hotel. We ended our night with a couple of drinks on the outside bar/terrace, being right by the sea it was a little chilly but the patio heaters and fire pits dotted about helped keep the cold out. Arrival day had gone well, we were both truly relaxed, happy and feeling the SoCal vibe.

Day One
The first full day saw us awake pretty early but as we had both slept well and felt fine we were none too bothered. After showering and enjoying a in-room coffee we had breakfast on terrace of the hotel restaurant before we set off to the center of LA to go on a guided sightseeing tour. We did a Grand City Tour which I booked online through Viator. Our guide Paul was super friendly and informative and our stops included the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Grove Farmers Market where we had time to shop and get some lunch. We whizzed past a few celeb homes, Paramount studios and the Beverley Hills sign before we were dropped back off. The whole thing took a little over 4 hours so it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour but it took us to the few places in LA that we wanted to see so was perfect for us. It was a small group too, just us and some lovely folks from Texas. It was quite a hazy day so we didn't get to clearly see the Hollywood sign, but we saw it in the distance and I managed to get a pic by zooming right in. So that's LA now done, been there, seen it and bought a hoodie.

We took a taxi back to our hotel as we had plans to meet up with an old school friend of Toms later that afternoon. It was still fairly early so we had a little nap before we went down to meet Chris. It had been almost 30 years since the guys had seen each other and I was a little concerned that it might be a bit of an awkward situation but I needn't have worried the guys spent the evening chatting and reminiscing. Chris's girlfriend Heather joined us too and we all strolled along the pier taking in the beautiful clean evening air, it was perfect and was just like we had all known each other forever. We took a walk into the 3rd Street shopping area of Santa Monica which was lovely, so pretty and clean and with a ton of wonderful shops (not that I did any shopping at this point I would like to add). We went for dinner at a place called 1212, it was a lovely meal, great food and wine and lots more chatting. Nobody looking at us would have known that we had just all met up for the first time. Chris and Heather were keen to show us more of SM so after dinner we went to the Hotel Shangri-La for drinks in the roof top terrace bar. The night time views over Santa Monica and the Californian coast were amazing and it was the perfect place to finish off our night.

Time to hit our bed and get some sleep.....we had an early started planned for the next day as we were off to Disney!!!!!!!

Thanks for stopping by and reading, I hope you are enjoying hearing about our trip. Stayed tuned, Part 3 will be up soon.

Love and hugs, Jane xx


Our Amazing Holiday Part 1 - Travel Day

Well here I am sat back at home with a massive case of the post holiday blues. However I have a ton of memories and over 600 photos to share (some of which are on FB and Insta if you missed them) and scrap. We had the most amazing holiday - ever! From start to finish there was not one thing that we didn't enjoy this time. Nothing upset us and nothing made us sad apart from the day we finally had to pack up and come home. So here I go with post number 1 of  however many it takes for me to detail all the places we went to and the things that we did.

Our departure started bright and early on Sunday 28th May. As we didn't want to worry and/or have to deal with public transport we booked a Addison Lee to collect us from home and take us to Heathrow. Our driver arrived promptly and as it was early we soon made it across London to the airport. We went straight in to terminal 3 to find the Virgin Atlantic check in desks right in front of us and as an added bonus there were no queues! There was a slight moment of apprehension as the belt that takes your cases to their departure point didn't want to work but after just a few minutes they chugged into life and our bags disappeared into the depths of the airport. Now it was time to face the dreaded security gates, I know these are in place for a reason but I hate all the bag emptying, shoe taking off etc, etc. Anyway despite there being quite a queue it actually didn't take long to get through and have ourselves and our hand luggage scanned. With that chore over it was time for some fun, for me no holiday can start without a little duty free shopping. We both treated ourselves - I got a bottle of Burberry Body Tender perfume, a Dior foundation and a Longchamp shopping tote (Tom got some Hugo Boss aftershave).

We mooched around the rest of the shops before plotting up at Strada for a drink and a bite to eat before the flight. By now it was probably only around 8am but what the heck, we were going on holiday so it was a pint for himself and a prosecco for me. Anyway it would be 5 o'clock somewhere!!

Before too long our gate was announced so off we trundled. Now usually you get to the gate and then have to sit around for a while before you are called to board, not this time though literally as soon as we walked through we were told we could board. Woo hoo, straight on and in our Premium Economy seats within 5 mins and for those that are interested our flying gal was Lucy in the Sky. The flight time was around 11 hours and I have to say it went pretty quickly, I watched a film (American Pastoral - very good but a little dark) and listened to some music (mostly Chris Young who is my fave American Country singer) and I even managed a little bit of sleep.

We were quick off the plane when we landed in LA but we soon hit a massive queue for immigration, there must have been a few flights all come in at the same time as there were hundreds of people waiting to be checked and only about 2 desks open! That's not exactly the all American customer service and welcome you usually get. Anyway after what seemed like forever we were through, collected our cases and in our hire car and on the way to Marina del Rey. We had arrived which meant the holiday could finally begin. Happy Days.

Thanks for stopping by and reading, Part 2 will follow shortly.

Love and hugs, Jane x