I never do hotel reviews; namely because I don’t think a hotel is what makes your trip. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule where your accommodation is really the crux of your trip – I’m thinking glass igloos in Finland and luxury safari lodges in the Serengeti!

Because of that, I don’t splash out on hotels and the two things that I really look for during the booking process are a) good location and b) cleanliness. I’m an easy to please sorta girl!

So, you might be wondering why I’ve decided to write about a chain restaurant? Well, the Marriott group have excelled themselves with the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel. Primarily because the location is so unusual, but also the AH-MAZING food.

Location

suite_bi_level_bed_6291Photo Credit: Photo of room with stadium view is taken from the Renaissance Toronto Downtown website

This hotel is located partly INSIDE the Roger’s Centre (home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team) which is pretty unique in itself.

The window in my parent’s room looked into the stadium – so if you’re an avid baseball fan, you’d be able to catch all of the action from the comfort of your bedroom!

Myself and my sister had a somewhat less appealing view of a railway line from our window – so if you’re not into baseball and want fantastic window views, this may not be the hotel for you. Although, maybe don’t disregard it so quickly, it has a lot more to offer!

If you’ve ever been to Toronto, you’ll know that The Roger’s Centre is directly next to the CN Tower, so this hotel is a great for a lot of the tourist attractions including the CN Tower, Aquarium, Steamhouse Brewery etc.

Given that the the hotel is close to the waterfront and Toronto is a large city, depending on the time you have and your walking capabilities, you may need to get a taxi to some of the more Northern tourist attractions such as Casa Lomas.

Rooms

IMG_3870 v2.JPGIMG_3866 v2.JPGThe combination of modern decor, high levels of cleanliness, ample space and all the amenities you could need make for a very comfortable stay.

My absolute favourite thing about the rooms were the beds. Those things were so damn comfy – if I could have packed the pillows, duvet and mattress in my case, I definitely would have!

Restaurant

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Now, this is where the review gets really good (and not because of the small Starbucks inside the hotel – however, that was convenient). The hotel has a Mediterranean restaurant called Arriba inside and the food is out of this world (mainly at breakfast).

Most people have heard me say that hotel breakfasts are, in many cases, overrated (and I still stand by that statement). however, Arriba really pulls all of the stops out in the morning. It’s not the cheapest breakfast in the world, but the money is well worth it when the food is so good that you go to bed excited to wake up and eat!

My favourite breakfast was the banana bread french toast stuffed with bacon cream cheese with sliced banana, bacon crumbles, fresh berries, toasted almonds and maple syrup (it would be rude not to have maple syrup whilst in Canada after all!)

We did also eat in Arriba one evening and the dinner menu was much smaller than the breakfast selection but the food was great regardless!

Overall

Location
Food
Cleanliness
Staff

 

Yes, it’s a chain hotel. Yes, hotel’s don’t make your entire experience while travelling. Still, would I recommend this hotel to a friend? Most definitely. If you’re interested in booking this hotel, be sure to check out prices here!

Have you ever been to Toronto, what is your favourite hotel?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post (although it does contain affiliate links) and all thoughts are my own.
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We were up bright and early on our second morning in Toronto (although not entirely by our own doing, our body clocks were still stuck on silly UK time – I’m sure time changes never used to affect me this badly – am I getting old?!) but getting up early was for good reason – WE WERE GOING TO NIAGARA FALLS!

I’ve said before that the areas of North America that interest me the most are the National Parks and places of natural beauty, so it’s safe to say that Niagara falls has been on my North America bucket list since the beginning of time!

My family wanted to book a guided tour for Niagara as we weren’t in Toronto for long, so ease was more important than cost (for once in my life!) – we wanted our tour guide to pick us up from the hotel, tell us everything we need to know and bring us back when we want with no hanging around waiting for public transport. My dad found Gerardo on “Tours By Locals” and his tour fit the bill!

Helicopter Ride over the Falls

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After a long chit-chat with Gerardo in the car about anything and everything, from the history of the area to Brexit and Trump, we arrived at the falls! Before heading down to explore immediately, Gerardo spotted that there wasn’t anyone in the car park for the heliport, so we headed straight over for a spontaneous flight!

Getting to the falls early in the morning means that you are ahead of all the coaches and tour bus’ that arrive later in the day – apparently the queues for the helicopter rides can become horrendous.

Flights are around 144 CAD per person, so it’s a pricey experience but definitely worth it. As you are lifted into the air, you are reassured that the model of the helicopter is one of the newest, safest and quietest on the planet – so if you’re scared of flying, this could be the best place to have your first helicopter trip!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves now!

Walking the Length of the Falls

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Next up, we drove closer to the falls and were given some free time to explore, wander around and take pictures. We started near the American falls and walked down to the Canadian “horseshoe” falls, stopping at practically every photo opportunity along the way (yes… I know it’s just falling water and can’t look THAT different).

Visiting in Winter meant that there was a lot of mist coming off of the falls, but we were still able to see everything and the surrounding area had a light layer of snow – perfect!

Journey Behind the Falls

IMG_4267 v2You’ve probably all seen photos of people standing on a ridge right next to the falls, unfortunately, this access point was closed during Winter, but we were still able to complete the rest of the “journey behind the falls” – and because of the closure, the tickets were discounted to about 8 CAD!

This experience takes you through tunnels behind the falls. Along the way, there are openings in the tunnel which mean you are quite literally standing behind a sheet of water – don’t worry you can’t get wet (unless you are a bit silly and jump over the protective barriers).

Clifton Hill

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The Journey Behind the Falls marked the end of our time at the actual waterfalls, so we headed further in-land to explore the local area before meeting up with Gerardo for the rest of our tour/the ride home.

Clifton Hill is located on the Canadian side of the falls and was described to us as “Canada’s answer to Orlando or Las Vegas” – to me it gave off more of a “Southend-On-Sea” or “Great Yarmouth” vibe.

Essentially, this road is a tourist trap filled with amusement rides, tourist memorabilia shops, waxwork museums, candy shops etc. It’s safe to say that Clifton HIll is not my cup of tea, but whatever floats your boat!

On a serious note, how many waxwork museums can you fit in one small area?! We saw SO many!

Niagara On The Lake

IMG_4312 v2IMG_4320 v2On our way back to Toronto, we stopped at the SUPER cute town of Niagara on the Lake. Every shop was perfectly designed and adorable! We spent about 30 minutes walking around, visiting all of the shops (and trying the foods they had to offer hehe).

Ice Wine Tasting 

IMG_4331 v2During our trip, Gerardo mentioned “ice wine” which we had seen advertised in different shops but didn’t know what it meant! Apparently ice wine is a Canadian speciality where the wine is made from grapes that have been frozen on the vine.

On our way back to the city, Gerardo took us to a ice wine tasting session (unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of the place). We sampled 3 different types of ice wine and ended up buying a bottle with apricot undertones – yum!

More Things to Do! 

As always, I didn’t get to do absolutely EVERYTHING that Niagara has to offer, but to make sure you are as filled-to-the-brim with knowledge as physically possible, here’s all the other bits and bobs you can do during your visit!

Boat Rides

As we were visiting in Winter, we were unable to do a boat ride up to the falls, however I’ve heard great things about the trip in Summer!

IMAX Niagara Falls

If you’re not feeling too adventurous, there’s an IMAX theatre to show you sweeping views of the falls with a 4D twist!

Skylon Tower Niagara

Do you fancy food with a great view of the falls? Head to Skylon Tower! We decided to skip out on this experience given that we ate dinner in the CN Tower the night beforehand and the two look pretty similar, albeit the views are completely different!

Fireworks and Illuminations

During the Winter, the falls are lit up in varying different colours at night – we didn’t get to experience this as we took a day-time trip but it looks great!

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? What was your favourite part? Or if you’re planning a trip, what are you looking forward to the most?!

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Given that I am currently locked in the UK due to study and work commitments, I thought it might be nice to write about one of my old trips, a “#throwbacktrip” if you will. This throwback is a pretty epic one because we’re going all the way back to August 2010 when I took one of my biggest trips to date.

As with all throwbacks, get ready for a dodgy hairstyle and some now questionable outfit choices (it was really cold in San Francisco, that bright purple “I<3 SF” hoodie was necessary, promise).

Now, Let’s Set The Scene…

It’s my friend’s mum’s birthday and her husband has just bought her a new engagement ring (or eternity ring…. 6 years later and I’ve forgotten the finer details) and they plan to renew their wedding vows in Las Vegas!

Suddenly, my family and my friend’s family are planning an epic 3 week trip together through America incorporating a trip to Vegas.

Somewhere along the way, the wedding vow renewal was forgotten and all focus was on how much we could squeeze into these 3 weeks of fun – hey ho, we had good intentions for romance but sometimes wanderlust gets in the way!

This is a pretty touristy trip and I know a lot of people that have done similar routes, but if you’re going to the U.S. for a period of around 3 weeks and want to tick some of the major tourist bucket-list items off of your list – this is definitely the route for you!

I will be writing more detailed posts on each of the cities/areas in due course, so this will serve as more of a route guide/city highlights/photo diary!

4 Nights In San Francisco (California)




Of all the cities we visited on this road trip, I think San Francisco is my favourite. New York is obviously one of my favourite cities but I’d already visited the city twice before, so it wasn’t as new and exciting!

Trip highlights:

  1. Visiting Alcatraz on a seriously foggy and spooky day
  2. An amazing private tour of the city with particular emphasis on the city’s amazing China Town
  3. Obviously ticking the Golden Gate Bridge off of my bucket list

Trip disappointments:

  1. I thought Chicago was meant to be the windy city? We were not prepared for how cold, foggy and windy our time in San Francisco would be – I’ve never purchased so many hoodies in my life!

Driving the Big Sur (California)

If you stick me in a car, it’s safe to say that I will fall asleep. So I don’t actually remember ALL that much of this section of the trip but the photos speak for themselves, the coastal drive from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo was a beautiful one.

Along the way we stopped at a few smaller towns like Carmel (I’ve never been to a place where people love their dogs so much).

One Night In San Luis Obispo (California)

This was primarily just a stop-over to break up the long drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but I remember being absolutely terrified of the accommodation that my family had booked. The website made it look like the kind of wooden lodge in a U.S. small-town that crazy axe-wielding men frequent in bad horror films. Don’t worry, I survived!

4 Nights In Los Angeles (California)




Then we were off to the land of the rich and famous. As an avid “Friends” and (at the time) “Two and a Half men” fan, the highlight of the trip had to be the Warner Brothers Studio Tour! Pretty Little Liars had just been released and I remember the hype in the studios for it being huge – shame I only got into it last month – whoops! Now I would be SO hyped to see the sets.

Relaxing on Venice Beach, spotting celebrity houses (ironically the only celebrity that we saw during our time there was a fellow Brit – Vinnie Jones) and screaming our heads off at Six Flags Magic Mountain were further highlights!

Looking back, I’m gutted that we didn’t visit Yosemite National Park during our time in California, but the bright lights of Nevada were ahead!

One Week In Las Vegas (Nevada)



So… this is where that ever-important wedding vow renewal should have happened…

Instead we spent our days catching a tan by the hotel pool (and enduring many American people asking me if I was Austrian or British and one man asking me if I’d ever starred in Baywatch… just because I was wearing a red bikini).

Instead of staying in one of the more recognised hotels, we stayed at the Hilton Grand Vacations. This is because my dad found out that my grandparents had some old unused transferable timeshare weeks from an old holiday spot in Tenerife – win win – who needs to read loads of posts about free travel/using travel reward schemes/travel hacking when your dad has already got it sorted?

As I was only 16 at the time, our evenings obviously weren’t spent in the casinos (we left that to the grown ups!).

I’d love to know people’s thoughts about Vegas. I just don’t “get it”. If you’re mesmerised by big shiny lights, you will love it. On the other hand, if you want to be immersed in history and culture, I’d probably give Vegas a miss ;-).

In my eyes, it is just a strip of hotels in the middle of a desert. I am obviously so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit and see what the city has to offer but in the future you are more likely to find me in a European Castle!

One Day At The Grand Canyon (Arizona)



If there’s one thing that I did LOVE about our stay in Las Vegas is the day-trip to the Grand Canyon. I am in love with this place. No photos can do it justice, that’s for sure!

You can read the full details of how we visited the canyon and my recommendations here!

4 Nights In New York City (New York)





We didn’t really need to visit New York on this trip. Of the 7 people on the trip, only 1 hadn’t already visited New York… but we all love the city so much, that we obviously had to show it to her! So after our week of sun in Vegas, we hopped on a plane to New York, ready to be uber-tourists in the Big Apple.

There’s something about this city that I just love. I get the same feeling when exploring London (unfortunately commuting into Holborn everyday doesn’t have the same affect…). The big city, the extensive list of things to do, the million miles an hour pace, I love it all.

I’ve always said that if there were a city I could go and work in for maybe 6 months, New York would be it. I’ve visited 3 times now but feel like there’s more to explore. Like London, I think you could spent a lifetime there and always discover new corners and exciting things to do.

Highlights obviously include the usual tourist attractions (even having done them all twice before!) and my all time favourite thing to do in the city – escape the hustle and bustle, grab a hot-dog and chill out in Central Park watching the locals play baseball.

Have you ever visited these cities? What were your highlights?

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All photography credit lies with the respective owners shown in the watermarks.

Out of all the continents, at the moment I feel like I am drawn to North America the least. I can’t tell you why, because I’m not entirely sure. I think it has something to do with my absolute love of small charming historic towns as opposed to large commercialised cities (Okay, I know I love London, but London has a decent amount of history too!).

However, the area of North  America that really appeals to me is the National Parks. I absolutely love the ridiculously beautiful unspoilt landscapes. The Grand Canyon is one of my favourite places I’ve ever been and Yosemite National Park is high up on my wanderlust list!

So, I need some help. I’ve compiled a list of the things I can think of that I’d like to do. But if anyone has some suggestions/hidden gems that might help me to fall back in love with North America, I’d love to hear them!

Bucket List

  1. See the sloths in Costa Rica
  2. See the Grand Canyon (read: here)
  3. Take an American Road Trip
  4. Visit the Mayan Ruins in Mexico (read: here)
  5. Visit Niagara Falls
  6. Drive along the Big Sur
  7. Go celebrity spotting in Los Angeles
  8. See the beautiful Yosemite National Park
  9. Visit Alcatraz Prison
  10. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  11. See the famous New York skyline from Liberty Island
  12. Visit the beautiful Vancouver
  13. Experience the city of sin, Las Vegas
  14. Rent an RV and go on an unplanned adventure
  15. Visit 50% of the states
  16. See the volcanoes of Hawaii
  17. Spot wolves in Yellowstone National Park
  18. See the colossal sculptures of Mount Rushmore
  19. Tour the Panama Canal
  20. Tour Havana in a traditional car, Cuba
  21. Relax in the hot springs in the Canadian Rockies
  22. Go hiking in any of the beautiful mountain ranges of Canada (I’m not fussy)!
  23. Skydive over the Great Blue Hole
  24. Get the iconic photo of Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
  25. Drive into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater
  26. Get lost in Redwood National Park
  27. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
  28. Drive through Monument Valley

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.
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Chichén Itzá is listed as one of the seven wonders of the world by “New2Wonders Foundation”, so if you’re in Mexico, it definitely should be on your “must visit” list!

We were staying in the Hotel Riu Tequila in Playa Del Carmen and most large all-inclusive hotels like this have organised trips to the local sights planned throughout the week – however they do come with quite a hefty price tag! Seeing as this was our first time in Mexico, and we were staying 2 hours away from Chichén Itzá, we decided that this was probably the best option!

My top tip for this destination is to leave EARLY. This doesn’t mean rolling out of bed a 9am… we left the hotel at 4am to make sure that we arrived at 6am. Not only is this one of the most popular tourist sights in Mexico and I still couldn’t get pesky humans out of my photos (lady with the umbrella, I’m looking at you!), Mexico is also ridiculously hot during the summer months. We travelled during July and by midday, it was too hot to really explore the area and appreciate it.

Another great thing about using an organised coach trip is that you get a tour guide with years of experience telling you all about the area, how it was formed and the history of the Mayan culture – I knew nothing before my visit but I can guarantee you’ll be hooked the entire time!

We also stopped for lunch at an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant (included in the tour price) just outside of Chichén Itzá. At this location there is also a cenote that you can swim in (can be seen in the distance of the last photo) which is a great way to escape the heat! As well as visiting the colonial city of Valldolid which is really beautiful.

Chichén Itza should definitely be on your bucket list. Steeped in history, architecture and beauty, what more could you want! (Apart from a slightly less sweaty experience…)

Summary of My Top Tips:

  • Leave early to avoid crowds (and the heat!)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do your research beforehand or hire a guide
  • Take a trip to Cenote Hubiku on your way home
  • Enjoy!

Links Mentioned:

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