An Eastern Escapade

Boston

I may have originally picked Padres/Yankees as my team(s) (check the baseball references – and I lied about staying loyal… Go Red Sox!) but Boston is BRILLIANT.

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I felt like I’d landed in London in some parts. A clean, friendly and warm version… Filled with fellow Italian and Irish blooded folks with excellent taste in both music and food.

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Its one of the oldest cities in America so the architecture is stunning. The parks and fountains give her such a European feel. We walked from one end to the other a couple of times in our four days there and it was such a great way to get around.

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When we first arrived we stayed in China Town so naturally stuffed our faces with local cuisine. This was our first share room but our roomies were great and that staff at the hostel were next level. Jess loved it when I debated the merits of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy by comparison to Suicide Squad previews with our darling receptionist. He also told me I have a name that sounds like it’s out of a Steinbeck novel. Way to win my heart!!

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We started our Contiki on day three in Boston and what a group we had! Twenty odd of the most friendly, mellow kids out. We felt right at home. Our first day was spent with a tour of the one and only Harvard.

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Our tour guide was definitely a Ravenclaw.

For dinner we finally experienced somewhere I’ve been avoiding like the plague, Dick’s Last Resort. Named appropriately!

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It says ‘fake blonde, real dumb’. Way harsh.

Walking Boston at night was one of my favourite experiences. It’s just so alive and interesting. There were so many beautiful little Irish pubs with live bands playing and dancing groups of street performers. Lush.

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Next we were on to the one and only…

New York City

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To to be completely honest I had really low expectations of NYC. We had been told over and over how unfriendly people are and how dirty it is. I’m glad because it made our love of it a complete surprise.

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Of all the places we have been, I would say I felt almost the safest in Manhattan. There were so many people around so you didn’t really have to worry about people bothering you, the service standard was excellent, the food was delicious… Speaking of which, I did a food cart tour.

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My hangover was loving it. It was really interesting to learn about the pride the vendors take in their hard earned businesses. It’s no easy feat getting a license so they ensure their food speaks for itself. Some of them are family businesses running for 20+ years!

The night life was impeccable as expected. We even made it to the top of the One World Observation Tower. I just closed my eyes in the lift. It’s all good.

Two big nights later we hitched a ride to my number one bucket list item spot:

Philadelphia

Those close to me know of my love for the Rocky franchise and slight obsession with Sylvester Stallone. Running up the Rocky steps like my hero absolutely made my life. I went completely prepared. Ultimate fan girl mode engaged.

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During our city tour we got rather rained on but I can’t wait to head back and explore more of what Philly has on offer.

After our one night Philly stand we popped in to an Amish village for a little tour. Quite the eye opener! They live without electricity and as independent from the outside world as possible.  The families usually have 7/8 kids who leave school at 14 to work. The men grow moustache-less beards to signify that they are married and single ladies wear a certain type of dress to all special occasions to let the fellas know they’re available. I should get me one of those.

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Fascinating but I won’t be converting any time soon. They have one mirror in the house for hair brushing, they aren’t allowed cosmetics of any kind and they only have four dresses. Four. I could dress seven seperate communities with my dress collection alone. No thanks.

A quick stop in Baltimore for lunch, home of Hairspray and riots, before reaching the nation’s capitol…

Washington DC

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Canberra on steroids.

First we honoured those who have fought for the US in the last century. The sight seeing in DC was next level. As were the food carts.

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As were the alcoholic beverages.

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There was so much more to see and do there than I had expected. I actually really loved the place and would definitely go back!

With banging hangovers we made our way to one of the most important sites from the Civil War, Gettsburg. Suddenly life didn’t seem to bad!

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Ive really enjoyed learning more about American history. British has always held my heart but it’s very interesting to compare the different versions of events. It’s safe to say the Yanks and the Limes didn’t share much love back in the day.

On the Wild Western I was lucky enough to meet another soul operating completely on my nerdy wave length, Will. As we rolled in to his home town I was blown away by the beauty.

Pittsburgh is just… Wow.

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See what I mean?

I got a totally VIP behind the scenes tour of the best spots, including where they filmed the big Bane vs Batman scene for Dark Knight Rises. Talk about breathtaking!

It was so absolutely wonderful to see him again. Summer in Switzerland with our Martina next time.

Niagara Falls

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I’m about to drop a bombshell for anyone who hasn’t been, but you know what Niagara Falls is? It’s Vegas for nine year olds (thanks Phil). There’s tourist attractions everywhere, from the usual wax museums and haunted houses to lights out on to the falls at night.

So of course, I loved it.

Freshly crowned boat captains the squad hit the the waters appropriately dressed and ready for a soaking. The view from the bottom really was something else.

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That night we had dinner with a spectacular outlook and topped it off with a wild time at the karaoke.

Toronto

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Toronto was a spectacular blur. Our first night we checked out a comedy club and though a lot of the Canada themed jokes went straight over my head I was wetting myself at the Trump and America piss takes. I feel Canadians and Aussies have a similar sense of humour.

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The next day was a very liquidated one. We went to Steam Whistle brewery and I don’t remember much else. Good job I took photos!

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Montreal

Our final and most memorable destination was Montreal, located in Quebec French is their first language. It was fun to try crack that out again!

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Its an absolutely beautiful city. The views spoke for themselves.

Our first night out featured $2.50 drinks so we were buying four at a time. I ran in to some old friends from the big Tiki and it was wonderful. I’ll never forget this place.

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The next day I was reunited with the love of my life, the ocean. We went jet boating in level 4 rapids and I’ve never been more soaked or laughed so hard. Goodbye hangover!

Je vais vous voir l’année prochaine. Thank you for being a perfect ending.

~

The drive back to Boston was heartbreaking. Of all the group tours I have done, I’ve never met a bunch of people who blended so well and laughed so much. Sometimes I felt like we were on an episode of Geordie Shore, then we’d spend afternoons lying in the sun catching up on events. We shopped, gossiped, laughed, danced and created memories that will last a lifetime. I know I’ll be seeing you guys again little squad. Thank you for being the most incredible family ever. #contikiphil #phillikes….

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Inside jokes galore.

After a very long long long bus ride Jessie and I arrived in New York for the second time. On the agenda: Shake the Contiki cough, picnic in Central Park, Empire State Building, musicals. Mission accomplished?

Well Jessie managed to rip our Empire State tickets, but we did have a view of it from our bedroom window.

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I’d much rather see it from the ground anyway…

Our hotel was the most beautiful old boutique ever and we found a stairwell to play on.

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Aladdin was sold out for our days but I did manage a beautiful picnic reunion with the one and only TORZAAA!

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It was a romantic afternoon of giggling at couples as they made out, gossiping about men and being general dickheads. The hotdogs went down a treat!

We didn’t want to move from the warm sunny spot but we figured we should probably cover a few more things before we got on to the beverages, so off to Times Square we dallied.

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That night was messy and wild just like the three of us and though most of it is a bourbon blur I do remember: having beautiful chats with my soul brother Philly, another nomad heart who feels the pain of travelling to live/living to travel, several spinnings of the Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble so we had one final chance to show off our anthem routines of the trip and of course, a big greasy slice of New York pizza.

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Cant wait to see you when I pop over to Melbs my darling girl.

This trip has been next level. I can’t compare it to others that have done because for the last 10 weeks we have lived and breathed American life. We learnt about their history, culture and political issues. We met locals and spent time getting to know how they live. We partied hard. We drove a lot. We laughed and cried and danced and sang. We fought over stupid things. We ate a lot.

I thought after this time I would feel quite done with America, at least for a while. I was wrong. I can’t wait to come back. I want to do the Grand Northern and add more to the 21 states we visited this time round. I want to see Chicago. I want to go back to Boston. I want to go back to Key West. I want to do a big Caribbean cruise.

With Brisbane, New Zealand, Melbourne and Thailand coming up and my unwavering desire to spend a month in Japan I know it won’t be soon that I return, but I absolutely will. Probably next summer!

America cannot be summed up in words. Everywhere you go is so completely different, everyone you meet has a story to tell. I will forever admire their diversity. I hope one day Australia can embrace the same.

If anyone wants to have a chat about their own plans to go and is willing to listen to me ramble for hours, you know where to find me.

Thank you for following my latest adventure. There are many, many more to come 😊❤️

 

Harleigh Q

xo

 

 

 

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The Meaning of Life (and other such nonsense)

Dear readers

I’ve touched on the topic time and time again but this time I’ve decided to write a more in depth analysis on why the hell I can’t sit still, and exactly what it is that constantly draws me to the Unknown.

I used to hate change. My anxiety during my teenage years was pretty overwhelming. Every now and then I still get those old pangs of fear when I have to find the entrance to a building I’ve never been to before or when no one wants to go on a toilet expedition with me.

I’m slowly learning as I get older that no one else has a clue what they are doing or where they are going either. What’s the harm in pushing a pull door or having to ask someone for directions? We’re all just humans bumbling around and trying to find our place.

Through my amazing job I experienced my first solo adventures. I was travelling with other people that I had never met before. I didn’t have anyone to rely on, there were no preconceived ideas about who I was. I was completely free to be myself. What an intoxicating feeling.

My favourite thing in the entire world is a straight tie: travel and people.

I adore entering a new city and finding my feet there; absorbing the locals, the streets, the food. I love listening to the way they talk and finding a good seat to people-watch from. I really enjoy staring at others while they experience things for the first time too. I did that a lot on my America adventure. Watching school kids glace awe-struck at Abe’s monument or families spin on the spot in the centre of Times Square. I shared awkward grins with fellow ghost tourers in Key West and high fives with new friends at the top of the Rocky Steps in Philly.

I love people. There are so many funny, interesting, odd, bold, awe-inspiring folks in the world. What better way to find them than by throwing yourself in to unfamiliar surroundings in the middle of a city neither of you have been before? What better way to connect with someone than over a shared loved of travel and adventure?

Group touring is the greatest thing in the world. I have met some of my best friends while on Contikis and Topdecks. It’s a group of strangers bonding tightly because you’ve become each other’s family. I can tell people I’ve known for a week that I love them and mean it. You can be 100% yourself with no past burdens, no preconceived ideas. What better way to fall in love than with a genuine, honest and true fellow human with the same passions and interests as you? In case you haven’t noticed, I fall in love a lot.

Now I’m not talking holiday romances here. Those are a completely different kettle of fish that I’ll touch on later. I’m talking familial love. La famiglia e per sempre. The bonds you make with these people through shared experiences, like bonfires at Bass Lake or messy afternoons post brewery tour in Toronto, will last forever.

Social media is incredible because it gives us the ability to keep up with each other’s lives despite how busy we might be or how far apart we are.

I’ve always been the type of person who gets attached easily. I have a lot of love to give as Jessie likes to tell me! I get hurt easily but I’ll never stop pouring my heart out to people I care about. It’s a hard way to live, but I wouldn’t change it. You won’t always get it back, but sometimes you do, and it’s lovely. (Can I get a hell yeah from all the other Cancer babies out there?)

Through travel I have met people just like me; honest, bold, silly, loving. They are genuinely my soul sisters and brothers. No judgements, just love and fun.

Now holiday romances are a double edged sword. They flesh out the story like no other part but oh man it’s hard to let go of the potential. I hate that word. Everything always has potential even when it doesn’t. I hate endings. But who knows where the road will lead hey? Chatting to a beautiful friend I made on my recent trip, Jasmine, she made a very good point about making plans. You can’t know what’s going to happen next year, next month, or even tomorrow. Just enjoy the moment.

I’m still learning this. I always want more, but I know I’m lucky to meet these special people at all. It’s better to have loved and lost as they say… And we’re all still here. We’re all alive and living on planet Earth. What’s meant to be will be. For now, you do you!

To me, the meaning of life is all around us. It’s other people. It’s making connections. It’s sitting at the bottom of a waterfall in Yosemite with a group of friends and joking about bears. It’s passing a beer around the circle on a cold night and telling stories. It’s dancing like no one is watching while someone sings terrible karaoke and cheering like they just won a Nobel prize as they come off stage. It’s chatting to the bar tender at after work drinks when no one else wanted to go with you.

These little moments all come together to create the story of your life.

Will yours be worth reading? Make sure of it. Don’t be scared. Get out of that comfort zone and live a little. It’s never too late. You’ve nothing to lose.

All my love

Harleigh Q

xo

The Nitty Gritty and the Heart and Soul

NOLA NOLA NOLA… Where do I start?

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The weather God’s blessed us with warm nights and stormy mornings which worked out perfectly for our nocturnal selves.

I must admit Bourbon street during the day is a slightly intimidating place. I really wasn’t sure what to make of it and spent day one hauled up in bed fighting off a cold.

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Everything changed when we ventured to a little place known as Saints and Sinners.

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The Channing Tatum fans out there will know it as the bar he owns and occasionally visits. Sadly no such luck for us but we did make friends with our lovely bartenders (as per) and smashed a cocktail or three.

After that I had already picked out our next stop, one of the best blues venues on the strip, The Funky Pirate. Oh man. I was feeling that soul. We were loving our personal serenade as we gazed awestruck from the bar. We tried the world famous ‘hand grenade’ cocktails and I think there may have been acid in that secret recipe because I couldn’t eat the next day. Cheers!

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It was such a blur and I was loving the beeds getting thrown around from the balconies lining the street. Jess felt like she was in a war zone where as I felt like I was on stage. Shower me with gifts please.

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Now being the spontaneous kid I am, once the hangover subsided I dragged Jessie a few kilometres up the road in to what I would describe as the Freo to Bourbon street’s Northbridge. What an absolute kookville. I adored it.

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There were pirates, people in top hats, the coolest looking rocker chicks I have ever seen, superb moustaches and so much more with guitar cases slung over their shoulders as they made their way to their respective gigs.

We passed a few venues with young jazz bands free-styling and the packed in crowd going wild. The vibe in this area was absolutely incredible and my favourite (new favourite) street so far.

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Tattoo time! I already knew what I wanted and cause I’m tough as nails and wanted a memento from such a special place, I went for it.

I was sad to leave. I think you could spend a few weeks in New Orleans and still have a million stones left unturned. The service there is so top notch it made up for the kooks walking around with machetes (I’m not trying to put you off going or anything, I felt safer here than most places we have been!). I look forward to coming back one day for a few more wild nights and some further soul music appreciation.

Memphis

How could you possibly top New Orleans? Memphis. That’s how.

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To be completely honest I wasn’t sure what there was to do in Memphis aside from Graceland at the time of booking. That’s why I opted for only 2 nights. I’ll own it. I fucked up guys.

I have never been to a place with more heart than Memphis. Every single person we met was so kind and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us. There was that southern hospitality we’d been hearing about! We met a lovely family in the Harley shop who offered to take us in to town if we got stuck, because they didn’t want us drink driving! Clearly Aussies have a reputation. We met people in the hallway of our hotel who ended up joining us for dinner.

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A hot tip from our sales lady led us to a brilliant (and free) Elvis tribute show where Jess and I saw our very first greaser boy. He looked like he had walked out of the Outsiders. Safe to say our eyes were momentarily diverted from gyrating Elvis.

We had spent the day learning all about our King. Graceland was up there with NASA for me on my unmissables list. I was so much more emotional that I expected. I teared up walking through his halls and glimpsing in to his life. Taking a moment to step back and look around the room, I was in awe of sharing this experiences with so many other fans. His music danced around each room and the hall of records blew my mind. What an absolute God of music.

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That night after our show we ventured to a little place called Beale Street. The home of blues. We started at BB Kings Club after a few laps of the pedestrian area. All sorts of different kinds of music poured from each venue. We invested in a pair of light up bunny ears each and a street beer before opting to enter Silky O’Sullivan’s. Accused of being an Irish bar it still felt more like an outdoor rock and roll venue. They also had goats. They live there. I don’t know.

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Of course we are standing at the bar when we run in to the lovely driver from our last Contiki, Jeff, and end up infiltrating his accompanying group. Stories were swapped, buckets were drank, and somehow we ended up at our third Coyote Ugly of the trip. I always swear it won’t happen again and it always does. Needless to say I was not getting on that bar in my beautiful pinup dress. Especially not surrounded by the incredible locals who can actually dance.

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Speaking of which, pre street beer we decided to have a dig in the record store as we were loving their sweet sounds and I was on the hunt for my 645th snow globe. A lovely older gentleman complimented us on the way in and we ended up having a wee boogie in the aisles to some soul. It’s shit like that that reminds me why I love to travel so much. I even got compliments from a group of local chicks on my moves. Damn Daniel. Maybe there’s some rhythm in me after all.

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Before calling it a night we stumbled out on the the street to find a huge group of people doing what I believe to be the Cupid Shuffle (we have since learnt and nailed this on multiple occasion by the way) It was 2am, music was blaring. They were free, happy and loving it. What a sight. It took my breath away.

The next morning I woke up sad and sore and on the verge of tears because I could have stayed a month. What an absolutely magical place. I completely understand why Elvis loved it so much. It went above and beyond my expectations and apart from San Diego, this is the first place I absolutely cannot wait to come back to.

Nashville

Arriving rather late on a Saturday night with a Memphis hangover was not the best start, and when plunged directly in to the absolute madness that was Broadway on a weekend we realised very quickly: Nashville was not what we expected.

Not going to lie, country music did spill on to the streets from the scores of live music venues, but the masses of Hen and Stag parties also pouring out of them was quite the surprise. It reminded me of an American style Whitley Bay.

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Its a real pretty city but the greatest part of all: The Johnny Cash Museum.

Jessie and I developed a love for the legend while living in Brisbane. Our favourite local band West Texas Crude would croon his greatest hits and ah, we fell.

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His love story with June Carter is my absolute favourite.

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It was wonderful to learn about such a beautiful hearted man.

After my usual kooking around we took our several uber drivers’ recommendations and headed out to Gaylord Oprey Resort. It’s the largest hotel in America (not attached to a casino) and oh, she’s a sight!

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If I could pick her up and move her out of Nashville she’d be an incredible honeymoon destination. Pure tranquility.

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Caught a ride home with old mate. Jess paid him generously.

(Sorry family 😂😉)

Overall Nashville wasn’t one of my stand outs but it did give a great vibe as the Hollywood of Country music. I’m sure if you like that sort of thing it’d be right up your alley!

Atlanta

It was one of those days where google maps said four hours and we didn’t get there until 9.30pm.

Our first stop was the post office to send home about ten snow globes and the wild amount of clothes we have accumulated (side note: this is not a cost effective way to be. I’ll never learn). Of course the line was huge and we got the new guy. Two and a half hours later we hit the road for the final leg of our road trip: Nashville to Atlanta via Alabama.

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I am so glad we took the little detour in to Alabama. It’s without a doubt the prettiest place we’ve been. We drove past huge white houses on acres of land, up and down hills with views in to valleys… It’s green as green can be! I see why Forrest loves it so much. It’s like a dream.

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful Ally on my first ever solo adventure. It was a Topdeck tour from Brisbane to Sydney. We bonded and spent the eve of my 23rd birthday stumbling around darling harbour and have kept up with each other through the miracle of social media.

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She has the most gorgeous home just outside Atlanta and upon arrival took us on a tour of the city. Local guides are the greatest! We had a beverage at a lovely bar with views of the skyline and though it was short and sweet, we had a wonderful time. Thank you again Ally for being a perfect host and beautiful soul.

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And so we napped (because our sleeping pattern is well and truly stuffed) and awoke at 5am for our airport run. We played all our day songs and hummed along sombrely. We didn’t want to give our baby back and grumbled about how we could have just driven to Orlando. Damn one way fees.

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We covered an incredible amount of ground and the Great American Roadtrip really should be on your list if you’re keen on the states. By driving we saw every kind of scenery and met all kinds of people. It’s been an absolute blast.

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Orlando

Welcome to the theme park capital of the world!

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I had one mission and one mission only: Harry Potter World. I got superbly lucky that the beautiful Contiki tour leader Charity who I met in Memphis also happened to be a massive Potter nerd as did a few of the other girls, including my darling Perth chicka Ashleigh. I had myself a posse of geeks.

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We arrived bright and early and with hearts pounding entered the second most magical place I have ever been (for me, the Studio Tour in London just pipped it at the post). With Slytherin head girl badge and head band attached I was ready and repping. First on the agenda was a secret meeting at Grimmauld Place before butter beer and Cornish pasties, naturally.

 

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I got emotional in Gringotts and caught the actual mf HOGWARTS EXPRESS.

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Guys. I can’t. This was the ultimate for me and almost made up for my lack of letter at eleven years old.

The only way I could process all that excitement was a solo bevvie at Moe’s. I grabbed a Duff with Barney and we had a great time!

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I I really didn’t think my day could get any better. How could that be possible? Then I read the list of character photo opportunities and there he was. My ogre. My Shrek.

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Life. Complete. And it’s not ogre.

I found a deluxe edition of the Killing Joke and the latest Harley Quinn graphic novel.

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I finished the day with pool side beverages with my gorgeous and very welcoming new friends. Best day of my life.

So far.

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Also, Jess went to Gatorland and sat on an alligator. So there’s that.

Bahamas

Our darling angel Cloë managed a last minute booking on the same cruise as us and thus three days of drunken fun began. I’ve never been so full or heavily cocktailed in my life. Drinks packages are the best thing since sliced bread. As are double courses when you can’t choose. I ate for a small African village.

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Well lubricated and post Jess’s superb safety demonstration (snappers may have caught that excellence) we headed out to our first stop, Cococay.

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It’s essentially a tiny paradise reserved just for us. The Bahamas are just as spectacular as google images promises.

Not to mention the locals are so kind and friendly!

Now as far as cruising goes for anyone who is unfamiliar or unsure, it’s the best. We went with Royal Carribbean who are a brilliant 4* company who blew me away at every turn. From the level of service to the quality of food, the nightly activities to the layout of the ship – it was perfection. Three nights felt like far too short, but I don’t think we could keep up with the party life to be honest.

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on our last shore trip we arrived in Nassau and cocktail in tow, boogied with the locals. We now know two of the dances!

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We love our Cloë very much so when discussion turned to post cruise planning a little chat about the possibility of heading down the coast ended with us amending our Miami accommodation to make way for one night in Key West.

Key West

That turned out to be the greatest decision of all time.

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As a travel agent I’m forever aware of the risks of leaving things until last minute, but taking the opportunity for a spontaneous roadie to the most special place I’ve ever been panned out perfectly.

My jaw fell open as we crossed the many bridges to reach the southern-most island but it wasn’t until we drove the coast road to old town that I really realised what we had stumbled upon.
The sunset over the crystal clear ocean was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The buildings hold the beauty of NOLA’s but the streets have the calm quaintness that she’s starting to lose. The bars in their vast numbers are welcoming and intriguing. The seafood wafts through the air and palms lay in your path as you wander. Then we saw the ghost tour tram.

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Cloë and I jumped at the opportunity to be freaked out and learn about the history of this breathtaking place. It didn’t disappoint.
We heard stories of civil war tragedies, grave robbing, pirate activity and even that of a haunted toy known as Robert the Doll. He’s lovely. I didn’t take photos because I was too scared to ask his permission and risk offending him. Last thing I need is never ending bad luck with three weeks of travel to go!

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We topped off the night with a warm and wonderful walk home. Guys, I know I say this a lot, but this place is it. It’s my favourite. It tops the Amalfi Coast and Great Ocean Road. If you love history, heat, islands and clear waters look no further. I wished more than anything we could have stayed longer. I want to get married here. I want my honeymoon here!

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You’ll be in my heart special island!

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Miami

Still recovering from our binge on life while cruising, we rolled on to Miami at 8pm just in time to see a killer sunset and not much else.

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It’s safe to say I’ve already mentally planned my return to Key West and a big Caribbean cruise. Perhaps I’ll do that after Brisbane, Melbourne, Thailand, Bali and the month alone in Japan.

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Now we are in Boston. The temps are closer to home’s current situation and I can already see the locals are much more my type… I’m sure you’ll hear all about it 😉

Ti voglio bene

xo