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Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

On advice from a stranger while I was working in a bikini store, I stumbled upon Playa del Carmen. And I have never been happier that I took the advice of a complete stranger. I was planning the Mexcian leg of our trip on a particularly quite winter day in the store when a customer said to me 'if you're going to Mexico do not stay in Cancun, you have to go to Playa del Carmen!' I was intrigued! I had never heard of Playa del Carmen, but I was open to new ideas. It was the best decision I have ever made. 

Playa del Carmen and our time in Mexico were some of my favourite days travelling. Mexico is such a beautiful country! Every single person we met was so lovely and friendly and we couldn't help but stop and talk to everyone. Instead of the regular haggling you find from vendors in tourist destinations, the people in Playa del Carmen were wonderful. Everyone wanted to know about your travels, where you had been and why you were there, and there wasn't the awkward pressure to buy things that you feel in other places. I was so happy that we decided to stay in Playa del Carmen, it is honestly one of the best places I have ever been and I would go back in a heartbeat! The streets were so beautiful and colourful and everything we expected Mexico to be!

No. 35 Resturant @ Sofitel on Collins

I have never been as speechless walking into a restaurant as when I walked into No 35 at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne's CBD. Coming off a morning of hot air ballooning across the city, I didn't think the views or the morning could get any better. I was wrong. I have to say, without a doubt, No 35 is my favourite breakfast location ever. There was not one thing I could criticize about it and I haven't stopped talking about it since. Let's break it down. 

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning

A couple of weeks ago it was my 24th birthday and it had the best start to my 24th year that I could imagine. Thom had an awesome idea for a present, hot air ballooning over Melbourne's CBD! It's something we had both been talking about for ages, but it's just so expensive that we have always had too many other things going on. I mean, you could fly three people to Bali and back for the price of these hot air balloon rides! But it was so worth it! We got up super early - about 4am to drive into the city and meet the tour guides at the Sofitel on Collins. We were then driven about 20 minutes to Moorabbin, which would be our take off place.

I'll be honest, I was nervous about getting in a hot air balloon. I thought surely it wouldn't feel secure and I would feel like I was about to drop out of the sky at any moment. But I was pleasantly surprised.The basket was cushioned the whole way around, so it was very comfortable to lean on and made me feel so safe. It was also a bit taller than I expected, which was very comforting. The whole trip was amazing. Take-off was effortless and so light you couldn't even feel that you were moving.

Let's Hear It For New York

I took thousands of photos in NYC. There are so many different things to see and do in New York and there's always something different and interesting happening around you. Here are some of my photos that from around the city. Above is the New York Public Library. Lots of these pictures were taken on the Hop On Hop Off Bus. I'm sure I've mentioned in previous posts how much I love these tours, you get to see the city from a different perspective, as well as learn a lot about the history of the city you're visiting. The NYC bus is especially great because it's a really convenient way to get around the city and it's much cheaper than taxis! Stops for the Downtown tour include Times Square, the Empire State Building, the United Nations, South Street Seaport, Financial District, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, Site of the World Trade Centre, Battery Park and Wall Street. We bought our tickets from someone on the street, who gave us a 6 day pass for the Downtown and Uptown Tour, plus a bonus Brooklyn Tour and Boat tour. Definitely worth it!

The Roosevelt Hotel Review

During our stay in NYC we stayed at The Roosevelt Hotel at 45 East 45th Street in Midtown. Our main aim was to find somewhere within good walking distance from many different attractions, as well as somewhere affordable. As a university student and an apprentice at the time, we weren't exactly making it rain! But this was New York and we did want to stay somewhere nice as well! With both pros and cons, here's what we thought of The Roosevelt Hotel.

5 Things To Do In Times Square

There is so much going on in New York City, it's easy to be overwhelmed by choice! And Times Square is probably  one of the craziest and busiest places in NYC. No matter what time you're here there's always hundreds of people, cars and buses rushing around this time space. If you don't know where to start in Times Square, here are some suggestions! 

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station was something that photos couldn't capture. It is the atmosphere that defines this iconic location. With thousands of people bustling through it's walls everyday, Grand Central Station has got to be the most famous train station worldwide! Having witnessed everything from marriage proposals, to movies being made, it feels as if anything goes in this grand hall! Grand Central Station is also great for people watching! There are all kinds of people running through the station and it can provide a lot of entertainment! Grand Central Station also has a number of cafes and even an Apple Store, for everything you might need on the run! And with a roof inspired by constellations and legend, there's something wonderfully magical about it.

Where To Stay in NYC?

When visiting New York for the first time, most people can be very confused about where to stay. You hear so much about ever neighbourhood that you don't want to miss out on anything by staying in the wrong place! The good news is that there's not just one "best area" to stay in. Every neighbourhood offers unique and exciting restaurants, attractions and destinations; and the transport system in NYC can take you anywhere you might want to go that's not in walking distance! But if you're looking for some suggestions, here is my guide to NYC neighbourhoods:

Statue Of Liberty From The Water

The day we decided to visit the Statue of Liberty must have been the same day everyone decided to visit her. There was a line that wound from the wharf all around Battery Park and we were told by a security guard that there was a 3-4 hour wait. As much as we wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, we didn't want to waste 4 hours of our time in New York standing in a line. So we decided instead to jump on the Hop On Hop Off Boat (we had a free trip from buying a HOHO Bus pass for the week) and take a look at the iconic statue from the water. 

This was a fantastic alternative! The boat took off from right next to the Brooklyn Bridge and offered a great tour of the East River and the Hudson River. From the boat we had great views of Governors Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and also Lower Manhattan including the financial district and the new World Trade Centre, also known as the Freedom Tower. We did a whole lap of the tour and then jumped off at Brookfield Place to continue exploring. Brookfield Place is close to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Freedom Tower and only a short walk from Wall Street and the Financial District.

NYC Architecture:The Flat Iron Building

I couldn't get enough of the architecture in New York City. So many of the buildings are just so beautiful and historical looking. The Flat Iron Building is one of the iconic buildings in NYC for it's unique shape. Look at the detail! It's just amazing, I took photos of it every time we drove or walked past it!!

The Brooklyn Bridge

A historic and iconic piece of New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River. And it is even more amazing in real life. Matching the beautiful architecture of the NY skyline in Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is stunning to look at and offers beautiful views of the city. Arguably one of the most famous landmarks in New York City, it is definitely worth checking out while in NYC. If you're not up to walking, rent a bike and explore the bridge on wheels!  

Museum of Natural History

There are so many amazing museums in New York City. And none more famous than the Museum of Natural History. Located on the west side of Central Park, The Museum of Natural History offers world class exhibits, with permanent exhibitions such as the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, the Hall of Biodiversity and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, as well as travelling exhibitions visiting all the time. The museum was fantastic, so educational and interesting, with so many different displays to explore. It might sound silly but Thom and I loved it so much that we downloaded Night at the Museum to watch on our next flight.

Here are some important things to remember when visiting the Museum of Natural History -

1. Buy your tickets before you get there. The museum is very popular and admission lines can sometimes be over an hour long. Buying tickets online could save you heaps of time waiting in lines! If you don't have access to the web while in NYC make sure you're able to pay with a credit card. The museum offers automated ticket machines that only accept card. Whilst there is still a line to purchase tickets this way, it moves a lot faster than the regular admission lines.
2. Get in early! Despite being located in the city that never sleeps, the museum closes at 5:45pm daily. When most of the city is open so late it's easy to lost track of time, so make sure you arrive early and leave yourself at least 3 hours to explore.
3.If you're planning on visiting several museums or attractions whilst in NYC consider purchasing a multi attraction pass such as the City Pass, the New York Pass or the Explorer Pass. These tickets offer you entry into a number of different attractions of your choice for a discounted price. Definitely worth looking into if you're planning on hitting up a number of NYC's most popular attractions. You can find out more about these passes and admission to the Museum of Natural History on their website here.

Click through to see some more of my pictures from my favourite exhibition - the Akeley Hall of African Mammals and a picture of Thom with T Rex from Night at the Museum.

Where The Wild Things Are

I have found that when you're talking to people about travelling, everyone has a different suggestion about what to do and where to go! And when talking to people about New York City almost every female I spoke to told me that I had to go on the Sex and the City tour. Is this just an Australian thing, or are other countries this excited about the SATC tour? Well.. I have never really watched SATC, so I was reluctant to spend a whole day visiting sites from the show - especially since I had already checked out Magnolia Bakery and isn't that the main one anyway!

I was still exicted to check out some of NYC's most famous places though, so we decided instead to check out the New York City TV and Movie Sites Tour. The roughly 4 hour tour took us all through NYC and our tour guide was fantastic! He pointed out famous places from movies and TV shows, as well as famous historical places around the city and even buildings where celebrities have apartments including Miranda Kerr and Beyonce. We stopped at the Friend's Building in Greenwich Village, the brownstone house from I Am Legend, the Firehouse from Ghostbusters and Soho for lunch just to name a few. It was such a great tour of the city, and it was crazy how a tiny normal street or a building that doesn't really look that special can be such a big part of a film. Worth checking out if you're like me and looking for an alternative to the Sex and the City Tour.

Breakfast at Tiffany's

A New York right of passage - shopping at Tiffany's New York on 5th Avenue. The beautiful multi-story store is just like all the movies and everything I ever imagined. Complete with a rich man, who had his dog in the store, being waited on just like he was! I was so excited to be there, I bought a beautiful pendant without even looking at the price tag - my bank account was not happy with me later for that one!

Ground Zero

Ground Zero. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum are the most significant reminders of the tragedy that was 9/11. It is located at the World Trade Centre site, the former location of the Twin Towers. The memorial is called Reflecting Absence, and was designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker. It includes two large recessed pools, as seen above and below, in the places where the Twin Towers used to stand. The names of the victims of the attacks, including those from all four of the flights on September 11 and the Pentagon, are inscribed on the edge of the waterfalls. 

It's a surreal moment standing at such a historical and devastating place. It's just a beautiful for place for reflection and gratitude. I was only 10 when it happened, but I can still remember waking up in the morning (on September 12 for Australia) and watching it on TV. Unfortunately we didn't have time to take a tour of the 9/11 memorial while we were there - there was a four hour wait and a line that snaked out of the museum and all the way around the park, but I really wish I had of had the time. It's such as significant part of New York history and definitely a beautiful place to visit. 

The Great American Pastime

During our time in New York we decided to try and attend some sports. America is as big on their sports as Australia, so we thought we would try and experience some of their iconic games. Unfortunately as we were visiting in August, basketball and NFL were out of season, but the Yankees were playing in New York, how exciting! We grabbed some tickets online and were excited to experience the great American past time. We caught the train (not the subway, as the train was cheaper and faster) from Grand Central Station to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Interestingly, baseball is not as exciting as American movies lead you to believe. After the first couple of innings I was quite bored to be honest. Looking back now I feel like that shouldn't have surprised me that much, since it's such a similar game to cricket, which is also incredibly slow paced. We did have a good night though and it was fun to experience a different sport culture. It has nothing on AFL though!